Do You Secretly Hate Going to Networking Events?

Do you secretly hate going to networking events?

Do you find that you just don’t connect with the other people?

Do you just not “get” people?

You’re not alone.  In fact, I bet that everyone reading this has felt resistance towards connecting with others at one point or another.  As for me, I’ve felt it a lot through my life…I’ll give you a little history about myself…

I was the nerdy girl in school.  I was smart, really smart and studied hard and followed all of the rules.  I was the “goody two-shoes” and the “teacher’s pet.”  I was the girl that people always looked at and said “Hey, do you speak?” or “Hey, smile!” or “Hey, why the long face?”  I was often accused of being “stuck up.”  I was not stuck up, or aloof, or mad.  Yes, I spoke, a lot, frankly, if you got to know me.  I am simply an introvert and I was shy at the time.  I also never felt particularly drawn to add to a conversation that I knew nothing about with people that I didn’t understand.

But I was also very driven and I realized in my teen years and early adulthood that if I wanted to get anywhere in life, other people were going to be a part of the equation (no geeky pun intended).  I had to learn to crack the people code, if you will.  An above average IQ wouldn’t get me too far, I needed an above average EQ or Emotional Quotient.

Here’s what I learned.

1.  People are nice.  People are really nice, in fact, especially if you expect them to be.  If you go into a situation being very guarded you’ll get awkward responses from people.  Most people will selflessly go out of their way to help you if you let them.  If you were teased as a child.  If you were the nerd, the jock, the princess (remember the movie The Breakfast Club?) let that role go.  You are you, not some archetype and others are individuals too.

2.  Interacting well with others is a learned skill.  If you are shy, rejoice!  Because here is the secret to all human interaction: Let others talk and keep them talking, about themselves and their business and they’ll love you for it.  They’ll think you are an amazing conversationalist.  In fact, people really don’t like others that dominate the conversation with story after story about themselves.  The “showboats” don’t really make it in business over the long-haul.  You know that person yucking it up in their really loud voice at a networking event?  They’re more like the proverbial “used car salesmans (no disrespect to great car salesmen) than a real person.  A sign of a very high Emotional Quotient is the ability to be a real person.  You don’t have to be the loud, overbearing, person.  Everyone just wants the real you. What a relief!

3.  You can try to fight it but the reality is that business is done through people.  You might as well learn how to deal with people, influence them, and be friends with them.  Your richest rewards through networking will be the enduring friendships that you’ll build but make no mistake, people network to get business done.

Maybe it is unfair, but talent and hard work are not enough.  You need people to purchase your goods and services, people to hire you, people to employ, and people to introduce you to other people.  Without relationships with people you’re just stuck.

So what do you do?

1.  Choose a networking organization or association that you like.  You don’t have to go out and join everything and try to be everywhere, especially at first. Just join one group, maybe two.  You are looking to meet one or two people that “get it.”  Networking is a tool through which you’ll find like minded people that want to serve one another, without expectation because they know that by doing so, everyone wins.

2.  Attend regularly.  You can’t build the relationships you need in business by attending once or twice.  You’ve got to be consistent and you’ve got to be in it for the long-term.  So it’s better to choose even one group and be consistent than to just go out everywhere just once.  Relationships are built through consistency.

3.  Get involved.  Help out any way that you are allowed.  Having something to do and being  a part of the team that helps to put something together will give you more exposure and help you feel more at ease.

4.  Give help.  When you help others to feel comfortable, make connections, or learn you’re actually taking your mind off of yourself – – and that’s good.  You’ll feel more at ease about networking because it won’t all be about you.  You’ll also be sowing the seeds for great business relationships and friendships.

5.  Ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  If you are scared, say so.  If you want to be introduced to someone – just ask.  If there is some resource that you are lacking such as additional employees, customers, or referral partners, engage your network and be very specific.

So if really hate the whole networking thing, it’s ok.  You don’t have to love it.  But if you want to get ahead in life, you have no choice, really.  You have to find a way to know and be known by others.  Over time, your feelings and anxiety will just go away.

I don’t pretend to know everything.  I’m always learning and  I know that I’m far from perfect in dealing with people.  I’m still working to build my own people skills.  But this still geeky, once-shy, girl is now a passionate believer in the power of helping others and building relationships with others through networking.  In fact, somewhere along the way, it became more than just something I did to get business, it became fun.  If I can do it, you can do it too.

 

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