Rationally, we all know, that bad people are no germier than near saints, but according to science many of us nonetheless feel a gut connection between behaving well and feeling clean. Studies show those exposed to something gross make harsher moral judgements, while those who feel morally tainted often respond by trying to get physically clean (think of Lady MacBeth frantically trying to wash imagined blood off her hands).

Bad behavior makes us feel dirty, in other words, and the principle works in reverse as well-- feeling that something is physically gross makes us more likely to condemn in. What does all this have to do with business owners?

Apparently, this deep-seated human tendency could be holding back your ability to professionally network. That's the conclusion of a new study from professors at Harvard and the University of Toronto highlighted recently in New York Magazine's Science of Us column. The research showed that when people attend events with the aim of making connections for their professional betterment, they actually feel literally dirty afterwards.

Put simply: networking for gain makes a lot of people feel skeevy. Which, unsurprisingly, probably makes these folks less likely to network. "Networking in pursuit of professional goals can impinge on an individual's moral purity--a psychological state that results from viewing the self as clean from a moral standpoint--and thus make an individual feel dirty. We theorize that such feelings of dirtiness decrease the frequency of instrumental networking and, as a result, work performance," the researchers write.

A Less Gross Approach to Networking

Which is a shame, because the same team also found evidence that, when it comes to advancing your career or business, networking works. "In a separate study in the same paper, they asked 165 lawyers from five offices across North America how frequently they networked, and how they felt while they did it. The lawyers who did more professional networking also reported more billable hours, which would seem to translate to higher performance This study also found that the more powerful the individual was at his firm, the less likely he or she was to report feeling 'dirty' about networking," Science of Us reports.

So what are you to do if you're one of the many who feels a little grossed out by the idea of getting in touch with someone knowing that the connection could help your career? The solution, the researchers suggest, isn't cutting out networking (or packing a lot of hand sanitizer when you attend events) but instead subtly reframing how you think about meeting new folks in a work context.

Rather that thinking of your own gain and the relationships you build as transactional, instead focus on provide mutual benefit and forging genuine connections. Not only will this approach probably make you feel less gross (and therefore more likely to actually get out there and meet people), but it's also the preferred method of networking for many entrepreneurial hot shots.

Do you find networking a little gross?

 

Published on: Sep 12, 2014
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