There are several words to avoid while networking, depending on your situation, and they are as follows:

Boyfriend. Girlfriend. Fiancé. Husband. Wife.

Any mention of a significant other should be off limits at a networking event.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not advising to lie or omit details about your relationship status. I’m advising to avoid breaching the topic of romantic relationships all together.

Why? Let me explain.

A few weeks ago at one of our BostInno monthly meetups, I was having this really great conversation with an entrepreneur. He was discussing his MBA pursuit and detailing how he was currently going through the process to get his new product patented. The product was a type of sporting good, and I suggested him and I go play a round when it’s complete.

“My fiancé has been saying the same exact thing,” he replied.

“Oh, fiancé! Congrats!” I exclaimed, wondering to myself how we transitioned from sports to marriage.

Then it dawned on me: he thought I was hitting on him. Embarrassed, I quickly excused myself from the conversation to refill my drink.

This isn’t the first time a gentleman has casually dropped the relationship status card in conversation with me, and it never fails to turn a perfectly fun, normal conversation into an extremely awkward situation.

Sure, I may be overly friendly at networking events, especially those hosted by my own company. The way I see it, why would you go into a networking event and be anti-social? I’m there to make connections, create business relationships and hopefully have a good time while doing all the both.

I’m not there to get a date.

So, why does everyone else seem to think I am?

People, you’ve got to stop thinking that any friendly joke, genuine laughter or hint of eye contact means I want to date you. And then by saying “I’ve got a significant other,” you just make me feel self-conscious that I crossed some sort of line I never intended to cross.

Perhaps more importantly, the awkwardness leads to missed connections – and not in the creepy Craigslist way. I may know a guy who knows a guy who wants to help your sporting goods startup get off the ground, or you may have a best friend who needs a freelancer for her magazine. After all, isn’t making professional connections what networking events are all about?

Here’s a general rule of thumb to abide by at networking events: Assume no one is single, and that everyone is strictly there for professional reasons. I know from experience that it may be hard to silence the voice in your head as the devastatingly cute gentlemen in front of you goes on and on about his newfound obsession of following the Kardashians on Twitter. But it will ensure that you don’t feel disappointed when he doesn’t ask you out to dinner. And from his point of view, it will save him the awkwardness of having to hint that he is much very in love with his longtime girlfriend. Exchange business cards, and go your separate ways.

Unless, of course, you are 100 percent certain that the creepy, drunk old man is hitting on you. Then you can feel free to talk about how incredibly thoughtful your fiancé is for sending you flowers last week and how you just found your dream wedding dress last weekend.

What’s your policy for networking events and potential dates? Is it possible to marry the two, or should they always remain separate?

Image via startuprockstars.eventbrite.com