Skill and shamelessness

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The network effect

Being a good networker pays off—but it requires skill as well as shamelessness

“The first principle for would-be networkers is to abandon all shame. Be flagrant in your pursuit of the powerful and the soon-to-be-powerful, and when you have their attention, praise them to the skies. Academic research has found that people’s susceptibility to flattery is without limit and beyond satire. In a study published in 1997, B.J. Fogg and Clifford Nass of Stanford University invited people to play a guessing game with a computer, which gave them various types of feedback as they played. Participants who received praise rated both the computer and themselves more highly than those who did not—even those who had been warned beforehand that the machine would compliment them regardless of how well they were doing. Yes, even blatantly insincere, computer-generated flattery works.

But shamelessness needs to be balanced with subtlety. Pretend to disagree with your interlocutor before coming around to his point of view; that gives him a sense of mastery. Discover similar interests or experiences. People are so drawn to those like themselves that they are more likely to marry partners whose first or last names resemble their own. Go out of your way to ask for help. Lending a helping hand allows a powerful person to exercise his power while also burnishing his self-esteem. In his time in the Senate, in 2005-08, Barack Obama asked about a third of his fellow senators for help and advice.”


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