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The Lazy Social Networker: Should You Go Offline?

The Lazy Social Networker: Should You Go Offline?

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    I know networking is crucial for everything from finding a new job to making a sale. And sites like Facebook and LinkedIn can make all that networking go a lot faster. But I’m not sold on the idea that they always make it better. For one thing, social networking online is a ton of work. Between responding to notifications, wishing everyone a happy birthday and clicking ignore on ridiculous Facebook application requests, it can feel like I’ve spent all day on social networking and no time of anything that will actually make it worthwhile to have a network.

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    It’s easy to be lazy about social networking: just ‘forget’ to log in to LinkedIn for a week or two. But if you want the value of the network without all the hassle, maybe there are some better options. In particular, I’m talking about limiting your online networking and focusing on what you can do offline.

    Start Slow

    I’ve been making a point of connecting with people offline lately. I’ve spent some great lunch hours meeting up with folks that I may see something about online every day but that I almost never see in person. And, as it happens, just sitting down with a sandwich and a contact has been far more valuable than having those same individuals friended on the social networking site of the work. We talked through some of the respective problems we’ve been having with careers and businesses, and even found some worthwhile solutions.

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    If you’ve moved more towards doing your networking online, it may seem counter-intuitive to try to meet with someone in person. After all, you can shoot off an email to your contact whenever you want. Just the same, though, even one face-to-face meeting can make a huge difference in what topics you think to talk (or write) about. You may have an idea of the current opportunities and issues a person is facing if he updates Twitter or his Facebook status religiously, but it won’t sink in until you actually discuss it. The reverse is true.

    Starting to add the occasional real person into your schedule can be difficult. I try to schedule all of my meetings into one day a week in order to improve my productivity on the other four days. I just started adding one meeting — usually at lunch time — where I didn’t have to meet with someone on an existing project. Instead, I pick someone out of my address book that I want to just have a conversation with. It’s as simple as sending an email offering to meet for lunch — almost always, my contact is up for it.

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    Adding in a meeting a week may be a little much for your schedule, though. Maybe starting with something low level, like a short telephone call, is more your style. I think, though, if you start connecting with people offline, you’ll be inclined to do so even more. If that isn’t true — if you don’t find that face-to-face meeting help you — you can always go back to spending all your time on social networking sites. Just give it a try once or twice before discounting it.

    Why Bother?

    Between all the social networking sites I’ve ‘had’ to join, the number of contacts I’ve got numbers in the thousands. There’s no way for me to really have a meaningful relationship with each and everyone of them, even online — and there’s definitely no way for me to meet each of them in person. It’s pretty tempting to give up on the whole idea of even trying.

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    But it’s worth the bother. There are definitely people in my contact lists that I’m willing to make meeting in person a priority. There are even a few that I would be willing to drop what I’m doing just for the chance at a cup of coffee with them. While I don’t particularly like the idea that I’m picking and choosing which of my contacts are really valuable to me, that’s just the approach that is necessary to even start meeting a few in person.

    Those face-to-face meetings are worth it, though. When you’re used to working at home and seeing no one, or working in an office and seeing the same handful of people day in and day out, it’s incredibly difficult to get perspective on both your opportunities and your problems. Just bringing in a new viewpoint can shake everything up. And it’s never a bad thing to have an excuse to get away from your desk and have lunch with someone you can hold a conversation with.

    A Time And A Place

    There’s certainly a time and a place for both online and offline networking. There are plenty of people I never would have met without the ability to connect online — living on different continents no longer prevents making a good connection. But social networking will never replace what you can do in person.

    Before you add that new friend on your favorite social network, it’s worth exploring whether you can connect with an existing friend offline. Offer to go out to lunch, or even grab a cup of coffee. Meet up at some event. Just walk away from the computer for a little while and see if you can strengthen your network before you try to play the ‘I have more connections than anyone else’ game.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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