Why Do People Resist Networking?

Every year, there is more evidence of the success people have when using networking activities to help grow and promote their businesses. This is thrilling, but many people— for some reason or another—continue to resist becoming involved with networking, one of the most cost-effective, highest outcome things they can do, especially as owners of small businesses.

So we decided to ask people who are actively involved in networking their opinions of why other business owners continue to resist what is so widely known to work. There were over 100 responses to the query, and the answers were really insightful.

In general, we were able to identify four major reasons given by the respondents, as to why other business owners resisted the benefits of networking:

  1. Lack of confidence
  2. Lack of time/too busy
  3. Impatience leading to early failure
  4. General lack of understanding about the benefits networking

Lack of Confidence

This was the most popular reason people gave, but what is interesting is that there were quite a few different ways that they described the “lack of confidence” that kept people from networking. Here are a few of the responses…

  • One reason is often fear of not being able to contribute with referrals
  • The initial thought of meeting and interacting with strangers of a professional or social nature is paralyzing to many
  • I think there is a fear of being in a room of strange people and going to a new place, so the comfort of their office and home is where they stay – stepping out and networking takes courage!
  • Some are afraid they won’t have anyone to talk to and it’s uncomfortable to reach out to talk to someone themselves
  • People resist networking because the thought of going into a room full of people they don’t know is truly scary
  • It’s a mix of self-confidence, shyness and under-estimation
  • Fear of rejection…it’s outside their comfort zone
  • They’re afraid if they get rejected, it’s because of who they are and the fact that their services may not be needed at that time…they take every “no” very personally
  • Shyness or fear of not being able to contribute

Lack of Time/Too Busy

Being busy, or not having time to devote to networking, is one of the excuses use a lot when people ask about growing a business and they are encouraged to get involved in a networking organization. Using “too busy” as an excuse also means that a person is really not clear on what they stand to gain by directing some time toward networking. Once they learn that breaking out of the routine is also an enriching experience, they find ways to make it work in their schedules. Here are the responses we received:

  • Sometimes people just don’t think it will be worth giving up something else to network
  • Networking takes people away from the gym, or working through lunch or getting home to help the kids and make dinner
  • People are too busy to take on the responsibilities arising out of networking
  • Many times they are not confident about the outcome of networking, so it seems like a waste of valuable time
  • Misunderstanding: I don’t have time for my friends; you want me to socialize with strangers?
  • Stress: On top of everything I already have to do, I should learn to network, too?

Impatience Leading to Early Failure

We live in such a rushed society these days, expecting – even demanding – immediate feedback from our efforts. Networking is not a “get rich quick” scheme. A successful networking effort is much more like farming than hunting. You have to cultivate good relationships that pay you back over the long-term, year after year.  Here are the responses received regarding this excuse.

  • Quality networking or even networking demands time, and so many are in a hurry and want a “networking capsule” so that we race ahead and get immediate results
  • Denial to the fact it will work because it has hard work – they think it is a waste of time because they did not follow up with the people they connected with, so they got no results
  • They’re impatient and don’t understand the value of taking the time to build fruitful relationships
  • Networking success takes work and commitment, and if it doesn’t work out then they have to admit they played a part in the failure…it’s so much easier to write a check for advertising and then blame someone else
  • They don’t have a plan, and no real goal with their networking; therefore it seems like a waste of time
  • It hasn’t worked for them in the past, because they go for the “close” as opposed to establishing trust and the relationship first

General Lack of Understanding About the Benefits of Networking

There is really no good education on the values of networking for entrepreneurs. Most people sort of “stumble” upon a networking organization and learn as they go. Imagine if all of the scenarios that the respondents shared below were eliminated simply because there was better education in universities (and even in high schools!) about how to network for professional growth.

Here are the last responses from the very astute networkers who answered the original query as to why some people still resisted networking:

They don’t realize that networking isn’t something you do to someone. It’s something you do with them; it’s a conversation you have. It’s more listening then telling or sharing (i.e. making sure you’re letting the person you’ve just met share about themselves, etc.).

They think networking is selling. They are frightened about being sold to, or they don’t want to pitch their sale in a room full of competition. They don’t understand that networking is about building relationships.

They think it is like “cold-calling.” No one would ever say they like cold calling! However I had a great businessperson once tell me that every time you reach your hand out and say, “Hi, nice to meet you!” you could consider that the same as cold calling. I thought, hmmm, that’s not so bad. I really enjoy meeting new people, so I guess you could say I love cold calling!

Most don’t really know what networking is. Remember, we never got educated in school about networking; it’s always been a hands-on experience.

Finally, here is one of our favorite responses that is certainly very true.

They’re afraid of real success, afraid that their business might actually grow beyond their comprehensions. This is a scary, misguided thought, but one that is held by many of my friends, which is why they fail to start their own businesses. Sad…

Sad, indeed. This last response really sums up what it takes to succeed and break any barriers to successful networking:

Those among us who can put aside our “self-absorption” and “absorb” others, while holding a clear picture of the desired outcome of networking, are the ones who dive in, enjoy, grow, and come out winners!

By: Dr. Ivan Misner


Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an international referral training company.

Ed Craine is a bestselling author, the publisher of Broker Banker, and has over 25 years experience as a loan originator and CEO of the award winning San Francisco based Smith-Craine Real Estate Financing. He is also the Executive Director for BNI San Francisco.

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