At yesterday’s lunch, we overheard – okay, deliberately – a twinned table talking about business development, referrals – and networking.

[Yeah, we like to eavesdrop.  It reveals a whole ‘nother side of humanity.  Sometimes funny or not.  But always enlightening.]

That started us on the topic, and the ways in which we abuse networking.  Just remember these various and sundry conversations:

“Boy, my business isn’t what it should be.  Gotta start networking … again.”

“Alice just got laid off.  Wonder when she’s gonna understand the value of networking.”

“I’m going to a (fill in the blanks) conference next month.  Guess I better stock up on my business cards as hand-outs.”

The concept of one-way connections just doesn’t work anymore.  Sure, information on individuals is more plentiful than ever, whether we Google, LinkIn, gtweet, or otherwise contact new and old acquaintances.  And the e-friendships do work, at least for a while.

Cynical-ness and skepticism, though, win out.  In the back of our minds:  What does s/he want?  Why are they bothering with me – and I’m not sure I can do anything?

Here’s our solution:  Swap the word for ‘relationshipping.’  It better connotes what we should  be doing:  Giving, rather than receiving.  Asking for the beginnings of a business friendship.  Inquiring about your health and welfare first, then, later, talking about me.  Providing value in the forms of time and thought, from scanning and sending an article of interest to mutually beneficial introductions.  Being old-fashioned enough to enjoy face-to-face conversations, and the delight of human connections.

Yup, it’s a favorite topic, one we tend to return to.  People, too.