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Should men and women network differently? (why science says yes)

This week most of you voted to know if men and women should be networking differently. Spoiler alert - they should be.

By the end of this blog I’ll answer when the best time for men to network is, when the best time for women is, and add general networking tips I’ve learned over the years.

But first a story about this crazy lady I know.

I know a woman who gets up at 5:30 with no alarm and goes to bed around 9:30.

When she was younger, she used to try and stay out later to fit in and be social, but as she grew older and more confident in herself she began to stay home after six because honestly, it just didn’t make her feel good.

That woman is me.

My pattern of living is different than most, and if yours is too - whether that be early bird or night owl - it’s no less valid despite societal constructs like working hours and mealtimes being widely fixed.

I spent years trying to fight against my body and change the way I’m wired. I thought there was something wrong with me, but the more I learn about sleep and human evolution, the more comfortable I am with the realisation that my body’s hours of operation should be respected.

Our hours of operation as people are set by our chronotypes. Your chronotype is the natural time your body wants to sleep. There are six established chronotypes and they vary from person to person depending on genetics, age, and other factors. Some scientists believe that chronotypes may even differ according to geographical location due to changes in daylight hours.

As a general rule, most children and women have an earlier chronotype, which is useful for women raising families, but what about women looking to get ahead in the workplace (where success is often determined by who you meet after the 9-5 work day)?

When should men network?

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post on gender differences in circadian rhythms which you can read here.

The article explains the 24-hour cycle talking about men’s optimal times to workout and socialise.

In summary, men will have a similar cycle every 24 hours and optimal networking will depend on the networking activity and individual chronotype. In general, men tend to have evening chronotypes and socialise best any time from lunch onwards. If the networking activity is something physical like golf or cycling, aim for first thing in the morning or around 5pm. For most men, it’s optimal to spend the early morning doing quiet solo work with high cognitive requirements.

When should women network?

This one is a bit trickier, because it depends on whether you’re using contraception or not.

For women using contraception, you’re on a 24 hour clock with no infraradian clock and can schedule days similar to men. It’s likely you’ll need to shift your hours forward slightly to adjust for a morning chronotype, but overall you can follow the same tips as men.

For menstruating women though, the answer is entirely different. Our infradian cycles are split into four phases. The follicular phase, the ovulation phase, the luteal phase and the menstrual phase. Most of your networking should be done in the follicular phase and during ovulation, and you’ll be able to manage your circadian rhythm similar to women on birth control and men. Networking is most optimal during ovulation, and you can also take this time to do things like pitching to use your hormones to your advantage. During the luteal phase and menstrual phase, take it easy, work on tidying up projects and rest.

It’s hard to do in a system of work that wasn’t built for women’s menstrual cycle, but try to do the best you can.

I’ve built a free guide on how to work with your infradian cycle here.

General networking tips

If you know me, you know I spent a lot of time getting good at networking. The five tips I’m sharing below were how I got started:

  • If you want people to open up, use the TED method. Ask three questions: one that starts with the word tell, one that starts with the word explain and one that starts with the word describe. I still use this method if I’m really tired. It’s an easy and automatic template to fall back on. You can watch the Tik Tok here for more on this.

  • Don’t talk very much. Really. Be curious and ask questions about the other person and listen to what they are saying. Don’t be deliberately vague but be the more curious person in the conversation. I find the less I speak, the more often I’m told I’m a great conversationalist.

  • Network in unexpected places you'd go anyways. For me this is the sauna at my gym. I connect well with the people there because we have something that takes up a lot of our lives in common. You could try your kid's day care, the tube or I've even met people in the lines of coffee shops.

  • If you're not sure how to start a conversation, the second best way to start a conversation is to compliment what they're wearing. If they're of the opposite gender, add "my friend would love that". (I'll reveal the best way to start a conversation in an email to my email list this Friday 21st July)

  • Find something you have in common. My favourite ways to do this are to

-Ask “What do you think the strangest thing we have in common is?”

-Look at what they’re wearing for offers: more on that here

Enjoyed this post?

Thanks for reading! Tune in next week where we'll explore another question keeping us up at night. If you have any ideas let me know in the contact form on my page!

Questions that keep me up at night - the blog for curious people every Wednesday at 9:00am.

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