Three Ways to Stay Sane as a Giver

I recently came across this article “Learning to say no” and since a lot of my clients seem to struggle with saying no in a polite way I thought I would write a post about it. I think the issue is not that we all want to say yes all the time but to understand better why you say yes in the first place. Maybe networking is a good example.

When you network with purpose you give people a reason to contact you again. You provide advice and you invite people to get in touch with you. You promise them knowledge, education, and access to your professional network. You could help them save time on meaningless research and formatting tasks. You could even offer them your administrative support for free. Believe me, no one will believe that you are doing this without intention and an agenda. This is different. It will stick. You cannot make one key mistake though: You cannot expect reward or even gratitude from your counterpart. You need to believe in the “networking karma” as I like to call it.

You keep the relationship alive, even if the background of the other person doesn’t match yours or even if the person might be a competitor. You might also feel the tendency to continue giving to certain contacts without getting anything back and you might think this is a bad thing.

I don’t think so, but I think we all have to be careful that we are not abused by takers.

You never know when a contact will play a role later in life. I learned yesterday it takes between 5 and 7 years in Switzerland until a newbie is a fully accepted member of a “Zunfthaus”. You can learn more about this Swiss tradition when you speak to an expert. (I’m no Zunftexpert at all). I think this is a good time frame for your networking effort too. If you have not messed up the trust you are building in five to seven years you might be allowed to ask for a small favor.

What could happen if you invest in your professional network without an agenda and without immediate expectations is that you suddenly have too many balls in the air. You juggle your network of contacts and you are a sought-after expert in your field.

I get at least one request for a scientific research project a month. It usually means that I spend about an hour preparing for an interview and another hour with the interviewer. Sometimes I dig out literature or I promise to send a link or literature list afterward. Most students don’t see how much time it took me to prepare all that knowledge but I usually get their thesis as a gift, which is great because I have a very specific library now. So, I continue to say “yes” to students because it helps me to keep up to speed with the academic research in my field. I work with an intention but not based on immediate gratification. In my view that is a different mindset.

You need to know when you say yes and when you say no

My own coach and mentor recently explained that we all need to learn to say no in a polite way. We need to be professional “Nein, danke” sayers. And for a giver that’s not so easy. What I recommend to do is to set yourself some principles and guidelines. This is how I came up with the ten professional networking principles initially. I used them to help me in my efforts to be less strategic but still network according to my purpose and values.

You could collage a thank you-wall or have a box of thank you cards

We forget sometimes how grateful people are when you help them achieve what they would like to achieve. One idea I have is that you could put together a wall with all the emails, notes and postcards you receive from people who just say “thank you”. Or you could keep them in a box or nice folder.

Learn to say “NEIN, DANKE!”

Instead of saying plain “No.”, you could consider a “yes, if…” or “no, thank you.”. You could say yes if certain conditions are met and if you are declining you have a few good arguments to decline. For example, you could say: I’m happy to meet you if we meet during lunchtime in a restaurant close to where I work.” or “I’m happy to give you advice if you prepare five questions and send them to me 24 hours before the meeting.” or “I’m happy to support your refugee program if you show my logo on your website.”

What will you decline politely this week?

Angie

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Give and Take by Adam M. Grant

On Perfectionism
http://www.vanschneider.com/perfectionism-is-killing-your-creativity

 



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