Networking

I remember once reading that “Mao’s Little Red Book was full of pithy insights like ‘It never rains, but it pours.’” and thinking, ‘So!?’ Not that I agree with that phrase literally because I live in Cork and it often pours but, often enough, it just rains too. So what my instinct was saying, although my brain wasn’t feeling quite so eloquent, is that the author of that line would want to do a lot better in their criticism than such dismissive sarcasm.

Although I disagree about it raining and pouring, the phrase is something that I know in my life as a ‘concept holder’. My mum had many of them and I have used them throughout my life. One that springs to mind is, ‘Friends come and go but enemies accumulate.’ How true! A fact of life, but also a warning and way of getting the best outcomes. An enemy in an unresolved conflict of any sort can last a very long time. Don’t make them if I can avoid it. Resolve matters if I can. And if neither of those work, just get on with it. And also, don’t be too easy to let friends drift away. There is lots about that phrase that can be helpful in life. There is lots of meaning that can be attached to it and contained within it. It holds not just one concept but a whole bundle of related concepts about how to get along with people.

And the point here? That would be a concept holder I have gained more recently in my life. I think I may have first heard it in person but it is also present on the Business to Arts website:

Here in Business to Arts we won’t even use the word networking unless it’s to do with cables in the back of computers.

Hallelujah!

I had always felt I was really bad at networking. I thought that networking was about ‘working rooms’ – speed-dating for work. Not only did I feel I was not good at it but I never really liked the idea anyway. Quite apart from the fact that I find it extremely difficult to have intelligible conversations in noisy, crowded rooms, how many frogs do I need to kiss anyway?  I tend to find out about people I should be connected with through the network I already have by talking to people I already know. I hear of these people or organisations that I could work well with for mutual benefit … or even just work with for my own benefit – I do that too sometimes. However, I identify the person, call them, tell them I’m in town and ask if I can call in and see them. Lunch sound good? That simple.

I do often meet people at conferences and events when we get placed together – have bonding moments of commonality in days that can sometimes be less than completely engrossing. And, of course, breakout groups and the like are good for meeting people. My favourite conference moment was in ‘laughter yoga’ at a conference of the National Youth Council of Ireland a number of years ago. The facilitator walked into a room of seasoned youth workers – all used to these ‘get-to-know-you exercises’ – and cackled REALLY LOUDLY! Never have I seen so many people look for the escape hatch all at once. We stayed, we laughed. It was really quite enjoyable once we got over the sheer embarrassment. And we bonded.

But they were all dyed-in-the-wool youth workers and I am in youth music so, although we had a good time together, we’re not all in touch now: although we have the embarrassment of laughter yoga in common, we don’t actually have our core work in common and have no need to be networked to each other just now.

I have even done the unthinkable at the end of a course – stated that I’m not going to be part of the ongoing support group for people that have shared a few days’ learning together. Maybe I was naive in expecting that one to not go down like a lead balloon. It did! However, my phone is straining from the amount of contacts already in it so I really can’t be building more network with people I’ll never work with. And it always seems to be the other groups that build lifelong friendships!?

So, anyway! Networking and computer cables. I, for one, really can’t manage to turn this

into this

so I’m just going to carry on networking in a much slower and manageable kind of way that I can deal with and accept that, actually, it works really well. And, if I’m doubting myself, I have a concept holder that I can take out that holds years of my own and other people’s experience in just a few words – ‘we won’t even use the word networking unless it’s to do with cables in the back of computers.’