Admit it: The idea of networking has always made you cringe. But you made yourself do it, shaking hands and forcing a smile, even though deep down you felt like a sleazebag. Now there's research suggesting you aren't alone in that feeling.
According to a paper in the journal Administrative Science Quarterly, just the thought of saying "find me on LinkedIn" is enough to send some people reeling, mostly because the idea of forming relationships in order to get ahead feels, well, pretty immoral. Isn't that the very definition of using someone?
Apparently, humans have a thing about feeling morally clean, so much so that we feel dirty if we're doing anything remotely unsavory (hello, Hamlet!).
Here's what the researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern, Harvard Business School, and the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto have to say about it:
"Unlike personal networking in pursuit of emotional support or friendship, and unlike social ties that emerge sxpontaneously, instrumental 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."
As the Science of Us notes, one study asked 306 adults to recall a time when they networked. One group was asked to remember when their goal was to form one-sided professional contacts, while the other was asked to recall a more natural bond with someone in their field. From there, participants had to perform word-completion games, such as W_ _ H and S _ _ _, to spell out whatever words came to mind.
Turns out, those who networked for purely selfish reasons were twice as likely to spell out words related to cleanliness (wash and soap, for example), while the other group thought of unrelated words such as wish and shop. The researchers' conclusion: just the thought of networking was enough to make the first group feel dirty.
Of course, feelings aside, most professionals would probably agree that networking can be indispensable when searching for jobs. Heck--it can even make you smarter.
So how do you do it without hating yourself the next morning? Simple: Turn it into a game.
Learn by observation how to hold a conversation, then set a rule to hold three different conversations at an event. If you can make it through that, you're likely to meet someone you like--and realize networking isn't about feeling like a used car salesman, after all.