Build Your Network by Treating People With Respect

I attended an industry event the other day. One of my friends was a member of the panel. As she and I walked into the event space, the moderator of the panel, who I know, saw us. He smiled broadly and came right over. I thought he was going to welcome my friend who was on the panel. Instead, he shook my hand and told me how glad he was that I showed up. He barely acknowledged my friend—who was doing him a favor by agreeing to be a panelist.

Afterwards, I mentioned that incident to my friend who, by the way, is a full professor at the University of Denver. She said, “That kind of stuff happens to women all the time. I’m used to it.” That stinks. People shouldn’t have to get used to being ignored. Besides that, ignoring other people is a terrible way of building your professional network and the relationships you need to succeed in your life and career.

How Micro-messaging Affects Success

This incident reminded me of a presentation I saw several years ago on the topic of micro-messages—the signals we send to one another through our behavior. Micro-messages can help or hinder your relationship-building efforts. Micro-affirmations help you build and maintain strong relationships. Micro-inequities hinder your ability to build and maintain strong relationships. The panel leader sent some strong micro-affirmations my way, and some stronger micro-inequities to my friend.

Briefly, micro-affirmations are the small messages that we send to other people that cause them to feel valued, included, or encouraged. Micro-inequities are the exact opposite. They are the small, often unconscious, messages we send that cause them to feel devalued, slighted, discouraged, or excluded.

No one should feel devalued, slighted discouraged, or excluded. My friend handled the situation well. She told me that when micro-inequities come her way, she takes it as a challenge to step up and do an outstanding job—which she did on that panel. She also told me that she would be unlikely to agree to be on another panel moderated by this guy. I don’t blame her.

Pay attention to the messages you send to the people in your life. Notice when you are sending micro-messages, be they affirmations or inequities. Micro-affirmations help you build and maintain strong relationships. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, every time you send a micro-affirmation you are making a deposit in your emotional bank account with that person. Every micro-inequity is a withdrawal. You want to maintain a strong balance in the emotional bank account you have with your coworkers, bosses, clients, and suppliers. You never want to be overdrawn.

My advice here is simple. Pay attention to the small messages you send to the people around you. Avoid micro-inequities. Consciously attempt to send micro-affirmations. Do this, and watch your relationships and professional network grow.

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