Positive Reinforcement: The Psychology of Networking Series - Tip #1

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Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

If you don't 100% agree, then try washing dishes or sweeping a floor for your mom without her asking. If your gesture is not well-received by her with a compliment but silence or nitpicking, would you do it again?

Probably not. You might just give it up to avoid wasting your time and efforts.

One of the first principles I learned about human relationships is this old adage, "You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” Psychology has a shorter term for this phenomenon: positive reinforcement.

As human beings, we're hardwired for positive experiences and shy away from negative ones. Therefore, if you want a certain behavior to occur again in the future, you should reward the person who conducts that behavior with a favorable outcome after his/her action.

How does this concept apply to networking?

It means that you need to reward the person who gives you something -- whether it's his/her time, resources, or help -- with a positive experience that makes him/her want to do it again.

On the surface level, it can be as simple as saying "thank you" to express your gratitude for someone's help or praising someone for good work or efforts. Or, you can play the role of a good listener and give your full attention to the person who gives you advice instead of interrupting while he or she is still speaking. It can also be demonstrated by your willingness to understand his or her needs as a person, instead of just only focusing on what you want or need from him/her.

At the deeper level, it's about making the other person feel respected, valued, understood/heard, appreciated and/or important.

This is not to say that you have to become the king or queen of "kissing asses". Instead, you just have to show the other person your gratitude and appreciation more outwardly, directly, and immediately.

At the end of the day, connections shouldn't be treated as tools. Instead, they should be cherished as real people who have their own self-interests. Successful long term relationships are built upon mutual benefits and positive experience for both sides.

I hope you find this tip helpful. Talk to you next time! As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions :)

Reciprocity: The Psychology Of Networking Series - Tip #2

The Psychology of Networking - Intro