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When is it better to give than to receive?

Frank Hutton

I believe social media has done us all a big favour. Thank you Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter!

Those old enough to remember the impact in the 1980s of Thatcher's yuppie children and the selfish stereotypes portrayed in the media and on film, such as Gordon 'Greed is good' Gekko, may also recall a time in business prior to that when you did 'favours' for each other.

Perhaps it has never gone away, just underground. Without doubt is the fact that the Digital and Social Media generation have given the concept a new impetus.

If you are using social media to develop your business or as part of your career strategy it's good to learn from the outset the principles of transparency and creating trust that make the difference.  Through doing something selflessly for the other party before drawing any benefit from the relationship, the other person often feels more motivated to respond as well as they can, not just half-heartedly.

But that's not the motivation for this post.

I encourage everyone to take this principle into their everyday networking and relationships to create better value from what and who you know. And I encourage you all the more if you feel you're someone who just doesn't have the confidence or personality to make new connections or start fresh relationships (of any kind). This is perfect for you!

I'll illustrate: say you were at a party (OK maybe someone dragged you there against your will) and you knew no-one at all as your abductor had abandoned you at the front door. Where would you head?

Most of us would try to find a role for ourselves by heading towards food (if available) or drink (more likely). It gives us something to do and a purpose which makes us feel better and more secure.

So try this if there is someone else near by (and there normally is - they're probably feeling the same as you): offer them something, physically. Pick up a bottle and ask, or even just look at them, and point at the lemonade/wine/cheese straws and see if they would like some. Whether the offer is accepted or not, you may find you have now entered a gentle relationship.

Next steps that might follow could be eye contact (you’ve probably both been staring at the food/drink til now) or a smile (at which point you can say something else like: Hi I'm Frank, do you know anyone else here?) or perhaps they will offer you something back when you can say: 'This food looks delicious' or 'Certainly seems no shortage of wine' or 'I love this one, reminds me of Spain' or whatever else might come into your head. And if you get anything back further visually, then introduce yourself and ask another question about them.

Take this timeless and age-old fact into your business and work life. Start doing things for other people, especially if you would like them to start doing something for you.

You see fruitful relationships are all about giving to the other person. I know a few people who complain they have few friends or they don't get invited anywhere. My advice is for them to invite someone somewhere; call them and take the initiative instead of waiting for them to call you; send them a note saying thanks for the favour they did you and don't be shocked or surprised when they contact you back.

It's a two way street. And while you can't force the traffic to flow both ways, you can encourage it.

Take this timeless and age-old fact into your business and work life. Start doing things for other people, especially if you would like them to start doing something for you. And it doesn't have to be online - the telephone is amazing at boosting our relationships and we can still meet for coffee, beer or a sandwich without breaking the bank (if we avoid Starbucks).

So make doing things for others a key part of your networking strategy in 2013 by starting in 2012.

Christmas is a great time to send good wishes and links to interesting pieces online, making that long overdue catch up call, starting a conversation with someone at a business centre where you're hot-desking or at the annual networking group Christmas bash.

You might also find it does masses for your self-esteem too! It's got to be worth a try, hasn't it?