I sat at a Professional Speaking Association event in London this weekend listening to two speakers outline how they build a big following on Twitter, broaden their network on LinkedIn and hunt down their competitors' clients and followers on both networks.
Halfway through one of these presentations, one of the other attendees who was sat in the row in front of me turned around to ask if I took the same approach. I shook my head and she said, "I think I prefer your way".
It would be easy for me to use this blog to rail against the approaches outlined. The mass connection culture that many people employ on LinkedIn is something I rebel strongly against, as represented in my business motto 'Connecting is not Enough'.
I firmly believe that networking is more about the depth of relationship than about the breadth of connections. For me, exchanging connections to 'grow my network' or scoring another notch on the Twitter bedpost holds little value.
I don't plan to do that, however. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the two speakers concerned and for many other people I know well who both practice and preach a similar approach.
That doesn't mean I have to subscribe to the same approach though. If I did it might help me win business that I am not currently in contention for but it's not the approach I choose to take.
For me the numbers game is marketing, rather than networking. It has its drawbacks, which I have covered elsewhere and will, no doubt, continue to do so. It also has its benefits.
That's not the point of this blog. This blog is about respect.
I respect the right of the two speakers opinion to hold and to share a different opinion to mine. We have respectful conversations between ourselves where we may debate our ground but we respect the other person's right not to agree with us.
Sadly, many people seem to lack that respect.
I have been blocked on LinkedIn recently by two people who didn't respect the fact that I have a different approach to them, after they took the time to insult me first. I've had other people lash out at me for the same thing.
In each of these cases I have replied politely to impersonal requests to connect, asking why that person wants to connect and explaining how I prefer to connect with people with whom I have an established relationship but don't like to ignore people I don't know.
Ironically, this simple act of responding to their unsolicited and unedited requests meant I showed them more respect than many other people would.
The responses I receive tend to be a mix of telling me all about their business (no, I didn't ask you that), how they are trying to grow their network and think I would be a good person to have in it (that's nice to know but, to be blunt, I don't know you so why would that benefit me?) and how we have mutual contacts (did you know them before connecting? After all, you don't know me!).
To be fair, many people are very respectful when I explain my reasons not to connect. Some take me up on my offer to 'Follow' each other, which offers a lot of the benefits of connecting without opening up our respective networks to strangers' eyes.
An increasing handful though are taking great offence to a rejection of their invitation to connect. They are hurt, they lash out and then they block me.
Just because I have a different (and, I would venture in many cases, more considered) approach to them?
Why should I have to dilute my network because you have a different approach to mine? I can respect that you have chosen one path, all I ask is that you respect my choice not to follow.
I don't chase followers on Twitter, I don't friend everyone and his dog on Facebook and I don't accept random connections to 'grow my network' on LinkedIn. I value conversation over clicks.
Please respect that. If you disagree, I respect your right to do so too.