an excerpt from Cracking the Networking CODE by Dean Lindsay
Questions we sometimes ask ourselves when considering networking:
What will people think when I walk across a room and approach them to start a conversation?
Will they think I am stupid, boring, pushy?
How’s my breath?
It can be intimidating to approach someone and start a conversation. Ralph Waldo Emerson knew the way around this universal fear, but most of all he knew the way through it: “Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”
Progress agents get all the butterflies in their stomach to fly in formation and then soar above their comfort zone to a new, more expansive comfort zone. Don’t make networking more complicated than it needs to be. Develop strong networking skills so you can make connections without being rattled and intimidated. The more intimidated you are by the process, the less appealing you are in the process.
Emerson’s advice will help you overcome the fear of meeting new people. Use Nike’s formula and Just Do It! These new contacts may eventually become strategic partners, customers, employees, employers, or even best friends. Remember, most people enjoy offering assistance, information, and advice. No one is getting voted off the island at the end of the event.
“You are the one who can stretch your own horizon.” — Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin
Zig Ziglar often uses a popular acronym for fear. He says fear stands for: False Evidence Appearing Real. Right on, Zig.
Really, do not be a Mumpsimus. No, that is not misspelled and no, I didn’t call you a dirty word. Well, maybe I did – sort of. Mumpsimus (pronounced MUMP-si-mus) is a seldom-used word. Mumpsimus means:
A. a person who persists in a mistaken expression or practice.
B. an erroneous practice, use of language, or belief that is obstinately adhered to.
In other words, the unfortunate state of mumpsimus means pigheaded adherence to a notion or expression that is popular but obviously wrong. Do not be a mumpsimus about networking. It is not some bad, hard, or artificial experience. Resist the popular notion that networking is all fake sincerity and pushy behavior. That is just not so.
Networking is not about arm-twisting. It is not trying to get someone to do something that does not make sense for them to do. It is not scary old backslapping sales shenanigans. The simple fact is, most people are cool and want to meet you. You will not find Eeyore or Oscar the Grouch at most networking events.
I do need to mention, though, that no matter how cool, giving, and funny you are, there are going to be some folks who just don’t get it. They are not interested in anything or anybody, and are always bummed out.
My quick advice is: Move on. Do not let their flawed human thing rock you. Really, who can honestly say they enjoy talking to a negative blowhard? People like this expect the worst and that is exactly what they get. Somebody forgot to tell them that you create your own reality and if you expect bad stuff to happen, bad stuff happens.
You know the people I am talking about – the ones who look and act like they just ate a big steaming bowl of “ Catcher in the Rye.” They’re irritable, easily agitated, restless types who love a good argument. Chances are, they are not feeling too wonderful, either. They have no personal curb appeal.
So what are the possible causes of soreheaditus?
Maybe their back is out of alignment. That could make you a sourpuss.
Financial and personal problems can make someone a bellyacher.
Hating your job can make you crabby.
A bad haircut can undercut confidence.
Perhaps it’s Monday.
Come to think of it, a lot of things can make people habitually irritable.
So how come more people are not walking around scowling and biting the heads off of bats? (Maybe because bats are hard to catch?). I’ll tell you the real reason. It’s all in their attitude. Those disgruntled people CHOOSE their bummed reaction to the world because they do not know how else to deal with it.
They need a little Monty Python. They need to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Progress agents have discovered that changing the way they look at things makes life easier in all aspects.
Think of Oscar the Grouch types as just nice people who have not yet been taught how to cope with life’s stresses and challenging moments. Taking responsibility for themselves and their choices has never occurred to them before. Maybe they grew up in a dysfunctional family and had no suitable role models to show them more appropriate ways of responding.
Progress agents always set a good example for faultfinders to follow. We adopt the “live and help prosper” philosophy, and we are not quick to make judgments.
So you can choose to tactfully walk away from a new contact who is letting off negative steam, or you can choose to stay a little while, lend a sympathetic ear, and try to guide the person to a new way of thinking. Friendly words of wisdom shared at the appropriate moment might make a difference. But be careful because uninvited advice is sometimes seen as a form of attack.
Do not take responsibility for these people or take their Holden Caulfield impression personally (Holden is the hilariously agitated protagonist and narrator of the JD Salinger novel, The Catcher in the Rye). They are probably bummed at the whole wide world. They may have been like this for most of their lives and they are probably not going to change just because you chatted with them for five to eight minutes at a business mixer.
But most people are cool, nice, enjoyable, and are there to connect. If they are not, they are making a far worse impression than you are. Shrug it off. Do not let these sad sacks curb your enthusiasm. Have fun. Enjoy the process. Life is too short (for you and everyone else).
Conquer the FEAR of Networking.
More info on Cracking the Networking CODE by Dean Lindsay