Skill set Acquisition: Networking
Networking: The process of creating and maintaining relationships
Networking has become a dirty word in some circles because of how it’s been ravaged by business use. Personally, as an introvert, I find networking difficult. I like people, but I forget to do the touchstone maintenance on relationships. But networking is a skill borrowed by the business world from the world of family and friends. It belongs, properly, in the social realm. (I recommend reading Miss Manners’ rants about the side effects caused by business stealing actions which belong to the social sphere).
I’m supposed to love my neighbor… and if I don’t know a thing about my neighbor, that makes that difficult. I would pray for Cousin Sue if I knew she needed praying for, but if I never speak to Cousin Sue (or Aunt Betty, her mother). Our communities are broken – we are friends transiently with people with whom we work or do hobbies, but bonds of blood become neglected – as does physical association. (Do you even know your neighbors’ first names?)
I’ll explain. Think of a cobweb.. every strand connected to every other strand, but there are matrixes where many strands come together. The strands are maintained by regular conversation. “How are you?” “How are the kids?” “Oh, Great Aunt Sue has lumbago? Terrible.” But if you don’t do that maintenance, the strands dry up. And suddenly you realize that you haven’t heard from that friend (or relative!) for ten years. And maybe someone you cared about died – and you missed the funeral. Or someone was sick, or needed help… and you could have helped, but you didn’t know.
This used to be women’s work. And yes, I’ll get this right out front: Some part of its ruination is how easy it is for social conduit maintenance to slide into gossip. That’s (my mother tells me) what goes wrong in small towns… everyone knows everyone’s business and has an opinion. If you don’t want to slide into gossip, it’s easy enough to ask yourself, “Can I help X with this issue, and if so, has God made it my business to do so?” If not, do the socially appropriate thing and return to your muttons. (In other words: Drop a sympathy card in the mail, bake a casserole, show up with some flowers or a kitchen appliance, say congratulations… you get the idea). Having enough to do of your own does prevent many a sin – it might not be Biblical, but idle hands ARE the devil’s playground. Worse still, an idle mind.
Returning to the personal: This is something I’m stepping up to, a skill I’m reluctantly learning. My mom is the Grand Central Station of information for my family, but she’s in her 70s. I *could* be in direct contact with my cousins, it’s not that I don’t like them. I do, quite a lot. My husband has an enormous family. We used to let his mom be GCS … but she’s been gone to Glory these 14 years. We have a wide circle of friends. And I love each and every one of them. So then, if they are going to feel loved, I have to stay in contact.
And it’s not just my job as a middle-aged woman to do this! It’s also my job as counselor/encourager. If the people in my various circles have drifted off, then they won’t feel comfortable coming and finding me when they need a shoulder. This is particularly important for those who don’t know Christ. How can I give them whatever words God has for them, how can I show them God in my life, how can I be a blessing to them… if they don’t feel free to come talk to me?
Another skill set, another “job” to add to the rest. Fortunately I enjoy it, once I get over myself a bit. 🙂