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Posted on Sun, Mar 25, 2012 : 6 a.m.

For Networking Success, Show Selective Vulnerability

By Greg Peters


Bob needed to work on being more open at networking events

Photo by Flickr user 1031

"People tend to do business with those they know, like, and trust." How many times have we heard that particular phrase? Of course, it's true, so that's probably why it gets trotted out so often. Still, ironically, a lot of people have problems with the concept. Their biggest challenge?

They don't want anyone to know them.

OK, I don't mean that in the literal sense. Of course, they want people to know them -- or at least know of them. The problem is that they try to maintain a "professional" demeanor in all situations. They never reveal any aspect of their personal lives. What they don't realize is that this behavior leads to "positional" relationships -- the weakest of all networking connections.

In order to be a truly successful networker, you must allow your networking connections to have some limited access to aspects of your personal life. In a phrase you need to show "selective vulnerability".

Now, I don't mean that you have to be an open book. Some mystery is still good. You probably don't have to share the story about how you and your spouse had a huge fight the night before. If appropriate to the conversation, though, you might share that you went out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate your anniversary. Your latest skin condition is probably a topic best kept under wraps. Talking about the joys of your favorite hobby? Probably safe.

Basically, consider the kind of information you would feel comfortable hearing from a close acquaintance. Those are the topics you can probably share to be more "personal" without worrying too much about being "unprofessional".

Remember that any good networking relationship is really just like a friendship. Until that other person knows who you are, beyond your job, they won't have the basis for a good, strong connection. Opening the door just a crack to let the other person in will go a long way toward building a network that can support you, no matter what lofty heights you are trying to reach.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to