Networking. For the social butterflies among us, it’s like a walk in the park. But for others, it’s quite daunting…more like a walk in the desert. If you identify with the latter, keep reading.
I grew up somewhat socially awkward. I like to think I hid it well. If you ask people who have known me a long time, I bet they’d say I always seemed comfortable and nice. The truth is, I’ve spent most of my life being uncomfortable in social situations, and I don’t think this is very unique. I made a habit of not being myself or failing to speak my mind because I was afraid people wouldn’t like me. I was also deathly afraid of looking stupid or saying the wrong thing.
In short, I cared way too much about what people thought of me, so much so that I found it difficult to make great connections. Meeting people was more of an anxiety-filled experience than a transformative and interesting opportunity. Making connections is a crucial part of personal and professional success, and the fear I was experiencing is extremely detrimental.
The problem with my previous mode of operating in social situations is that it was very inward focused. I put more emphasis on protecting myself from embarrassment instead of the conversation itself. This resulted in a lot of shallow acquaintances and my hardly remembering what was said. Conversing AND analyzing someone’s opinion of you simultaneously is like invisibly texting while they are talking. Which we can all agree is #rude.
Speaking to another human being is not the time to multitask. They deserve your brain’s full attention, so put your focus off yourself and onto what they are saying.
Without fear, you don’t have to worry about someone having a negative opinion of you. Imagine meeting someone and having no question in your mind whether or not they will like you. Imagine focusing 100% of your attention on what is being said and having your mind freed up to be fully engaged. Imagine your goal being this: to make that person feel heard, important, and interesting.
Maya Angelou has a great way of describing this: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”
So today, decide to stop being afraid of what people think of you. Be brave enough to reach out and boldly approach people you meet, without fear of judgement. Know that your opinions are worth sharing and give up the fearful mentality that gets in the way of powerful networking. No matter your goals, adopt this mentality and (net)work it, girl!