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Understanding your sector
Understanding your sector

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2.1 Networking concepts

It is worth considering a couple of concepts in relation to networking: psychological distance and an emotional bank account.

Psychological distance

The concept of psychological distance suggests that it is easier to establish relationships with people we regard as similar to us and, conversely, more difficult with people we perceive to be unlike us. Moreover, we may make more allowances for those closer to us while adopting more stereotyped views of those further away.

The implication of this is that you will need to take more time and put more effort into nurturing relationships with people who are socially more remote. However, this hard work might ultimately be more rewarding, as such people might have something new or different to tell you. For example, sticking close to friends and family for networking purposes will probably be simpler than contacting people outside your immediate circle, but this might just reinforce the ideas that you currently have rather than help you to think more creatively.

Emotional bank account

The concept of an ‘emotional bank account’ was first put forward by Dr Stephen Covey (2009), an American educator, author and thinker. In this context, it refers to how, when we first establish relationships with other people, we can make deposits into and draw on a notional ‘bank account’ of emotions. Being polite, smiling, remembering names and personal details, and sharing information are all the equivalent of making deposits, while being rude, interrupting, sharing too much, and demanding leads and information are the equivalent of withdrawals.

Dr Covey argued that this concept underpins all human relationships and that we need to be clear about what deposits and withdrawals we are making at any time. Perhaps, as financial advisers might argue, we should always make deposits before we seek to make withdrawals!

Activity 3 Reflecting on your experience

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think about a recent occasion when you met somebody for the first time and found the experience challenging or unrewarding.

  • Why do you think this was the case?
  • Does it suggest anything about you in terms of your being more introvert or extrovert?
  • Was it a reflection of psychological distance?
  • Could you have handled the encounter in a different way?
  • Does the concept of the emotional bank account help to explain why it was such a challenge and would building up ‘deposits’ first have helped?

Using these questions as a guide, record your thoughts about this encounter in your notebook or the Notes tool in the Toolkit [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .


This is not an activity with a right or wrong answer but it will hopefully have helped you to think about the nature of networking, and how forethought and some basic emotional intelligence can make these encounters more fruitful. In the case of the encounter that you have just considered, try to think about what you might do in a similar situation in the future.

Having looked closely at the concept of networking and what makes networking more or less effective, you will now think about how you might approach networking in a practical and productive way.