Sally* runs her own business and comes to see me about regularly about the challenges that come with that. Running her own business means that she finds herself in new situations, and having to do things that she isn’t naturally comfortable with. One of the situations she used to avoid was networking. “I hate going to business networking” Sally told me, “it’s full of people I don’t know, and people like me just stand round the edge on our own, looking at our phones to look busy.”
Networking can be daunting but just because it’s unfamiliar can’t be a reason not to do it, and if you want to meet new people you can’t do it without them being strangers first. Where a lot of people make a mistake, like Sally, was in concentrating on their own feelings, and getting caught up in them.
“How would you feel” I asked her “if somebody came up to you while you were stood on your own and started a conversation with you?” When Sally told me how welcome that would be I asked her why she didn’t do it herself to one of the other people standing on their own.
“But I don’t know anything about them, or what we’ve got in common” she replied. I pointed out that they have got one obvious thing in common – they’re at the same event. She could ask them if they’ve been before, what they think of it, if they want to go and look for the tea and coffee, and that’s before you ask them what they do, how they got involved in that line of work, and a myriad of other questions.
“But what if they aren’t that nice, or it doesn’t work?” Sally asked me “what then?” I keep a small tin of WD40 in my desk for conversations like this. It’s called WD40 because it was the 40th water dispersant formula that they tried, and the first one that was a success. They didn’t stop when WD01 didn’t work, and they didn’t think they’d better not even start in case it went wrong.
The problem with avoiding uncomfortable situations like networking is that by trying to avoid them we actually make our lives worse – by being more and more uncomfortable the more we have to do avoid it, and ending up with far more stress and worry for far longer. Instead of prolonging their hold over us, if we face them we have less discomfort not just then, but in the future as we become more resilient and more confident in our abilities.
Sally’s real identity has been protected, and she is happy to share her story.