Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

How Human Networking Works

        Money | Work Life

Being Bold in Networking

If you don't ask, you won't get. I learned this from my father. He simply could not be embarrassed when it came to fulfilling his family's needs. I remember when I was a young boy, Dad and I were driving down the road to our home when he spotted a broken Big Wheel tricycle in someone's trash. He stopped the car, picked it up and knocked on the door of the home where the discarded toy lay waiting to be picked up.

"I spotted this Big Wheel in your trash," he told woman who answered the door. "Do you mind if I take it? I think I can fix it. It would make me feel wonderful to give my son something like this."

What guts! Can you imagine such a proud, working-class guy approaching that woman and, essentially, admitting he was so poor that he'd like to have her garbage? Oh, but that's not the half of it. Imagine how that woman felt, having been given an opportunity to give such a gift to another person. It surely made her day.

"Of course," she gushed, explaining that her children were grown and that years had passed since the toy had been used. "You're welcome to the bicycle I have, too. It's nice enough that I just couldn't throw it away..."

So we drove on. I had a "new" Big Wheel to ride and a bike to grow into. She had a smile and a fluttering heart that only benevolence breeds. And Dad had taught me that there is genius, even kindness, in being bold.

Every time I start to set limits to what I can and can't do, or fear starts to creep into my thinking, I remember that Big Wheel tricycle. I remind myself how people with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success. The memories of those days have stuck with me. My father taught me that the worst anyone can say is "no." If they choose not to give their time or their help, it's their loss. My father understood something that many people don't: To be successful, you have to not only accept generosity when it's offered, but sometimes, you must also go out and ask for it.

There are times when I can make a big difference in another person's life. I can open a door or place a call or set up an internship -- one of those simple acts by which destinies are altered. But too often the offer is refused. The recipient will say, "Sorry, but I can't accept the favor because I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repay you," or, "I'd rather not be obligated to anyone, so I'll have to pass." Sometimes, they'll insist right then and there that they return the favor somehow. To me, nothing is as frustrating as encountering such blindness to the reciprocal nature of generosity.

In this article, I offer you what I know about how human "networking," nay, connecting works. I hope you will apply what you've learned to build stronger relationships in your life -- and know that I'll be thrilled to have made a small contribution to your success. After all, you can't get there alone. We're all in this together.

For more information on human "networking" and related topics, check out the links on the next page.