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July is a month where we recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the many freedoms we enjoy as Americans.  I’d like to suggest that one of the freedoms we enjoy be — hello! — how you network.

And if you really hate that term, as many do (I can tell  by the eye-rolling, nose scrunching, and overall cringing), allow me to suggest this:  start the process of declaring your networking independence by ditching the term.  Try using another term in its place.  How about one of these? Socializing, meeting people, connecting, conversing, getting out there,  making new contacts and friends, reaching out, building your circle or tribe. Whatever you works for you and leaves you feeling good about people and yourself.

This is an important topic for many reasons.  Numerous studies reveal that there are distinct and necessary benefits to getting, being, and staying connected to others.  Yes, there are business, career, and creative benefits to having a circle of friends. But did you also know that your happiness, health,  and longevity depend on the quality of your social life? It’s true!

Isolation can be wonderful and has its place. I know, as I work out of my home office with the company of two (mostly quiet) dogs, and I love it. I can focus, get some writing done, develop a workshop or presentation, rehearse, generate some new ideas, take a nap. But being alone can get old and I get restless for some good company and the sound of another’s voice.  I like being able to ask a question, work out an idea or issue, gather up some news, give or garner a word of support, or even just share a laugh.

Furthermore, “networking” doesn’t have to mean attending a professional breakfast, luncheon, happy hour, or conference.  I’ve attending hundreds of those in my lifetime. Many have been fantastic – well organized, great programming, plenty of time to visit.  They have allowed me to get inspired, learn new things, and make some terrific contacts and friends. But, let’s face it, some are just plain exhausting. Or lame. And the rubber chicken? Don’t get me started.

As for declaring your independence, try expanding your definition of what “networking” means.  Is it:

  • Inviting a neighbor over for a cool glass of iced tea, a brisk sit, and a little small talk on your porch?
  • Joining a book club?
  • Walking your dog and chatting with the people you see along the way? (I just met a new neighbor this morning doing that. His name is Jason. What a great guy!)
  • Going to the gym?
  • Taking a class?
  • Attending a wine tasting or a book signing event?

There are so many options and opportunities for meeting people and having a conversation that could change your life.

I often share the story of having a random conversation with a gentleman in Bed, Bath & Beyond who happened to be on the Board of Trustees for the college where my son really wanted to play football. That conversation was one of the most important exchanges of my life – and my son’s. Do you think I saw shopping on a Saturday morning as a networking opportunity?  Not a chance. But I was ready because Life is one big social experience.  I’ve learned that anywhere there are other people, there are possibilities for good conversation, a connection, and who knows what else?

Go back to the very first steps I outline in my book The Intentional Networker.

  • Know and honor who you are; what you’re all about and your preferred socialization style.
  • Ask yourself (and write down) what you really want, not just in your connections and friends, but also in your life and career.
  • Show up – and do so in ways that are consistent with these declarations.
  • Be open and aware.
  • Watch what happens.

If you’ve never done this before, you just might be amazed.

What else will you do to declare your independence when it comes to meeting new people and staying in touch with the ones you already know, enjoy, and appreciate?  How do you define “networking”? How will you redefine it? What methods do you use that are crazy-effective?  Let’s hear ’em!

I recently delivered a fun and enlightening half-day workshop to a group of high potential leaders. It’s called  “Live, Work & Connect at a Higher Level™:  Achieving More Through Vision, Intention, Courage & Balance.  We had a great time and dug in deep.  Participant ratings were beyond my expectations – and the client’s! If you’d like to know more about this program and how it can benefit motivated people within your organization, please send me an email at patti[at]intentionalnetworker[dot]com and we can set up  a conversation.