Networking is Hard If ....

If you don't like people, networking is going to be very hard for you. I'm not talking about the antisocial crazies out there, I mean the people who don't network because they don't like the way other people act in the networking arenas. "They're always trying to sell me something, they're not friendly, they complain about everything, they want to convert me to their cause/politics/favorite sport, they seem to only argue about stuff," you say to excuse yourself from networking.

There's one of two things happening here:
  1. You are networking in the wrong place, or
  2. It's not other people, it's you.
#1 shouldn't be the problem if you're networking at business trade shows, professional organizations, and in your Chamber of Commerce :-).

If you're at the right place, but you still feel like you're always being sold, that people aren't friendly, or you're getting into a lot of arguments with complete strangers at events: maybe it's not them, maybe it's you.

We get back what we project out to other people.
  • If you think other people aren't nice, that makes you unhappy, you appear unfriendly and then only the most Pollyanna people will listen to you complain about how unfriendly everyone is. Everyone else will seem to be unfriendly because they're avoiding you and your grumpy face.
  • When you're only there to try to sell other people, no one will stick around long enough to develop any type of relationship and you'll probably get their sales pitch before they split.
  • Opening the conversation with a complaint brings out the competitive nature in people and they'll respond with "Oh yeah? Listen to this!" You'll get nothing but worse and worse stories throughout the evening (because you'll have to top theirs, and so on).
  • By skipping the small talk and forcefully going right to the vital causes in your life (politics, sports, religion) without establishing any rapport at all, you'll reveal three kinds of people. Those who don't want to debate the issues who will leave as soon as possible and avoid you, those who agree with you who will form a little permanent consensus cluster, and those who disagree with you (and have strong opinions themselves) who will want to convert you to their way of thinking. Then you'll have your argument.
The next time you find yourself thinking how much you don't like the way other people are when they network, stop and take a good look at yourself first.

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