Last week I went to a networking event. Ugh! I dread networking events. Why? Well, I’m not sure I can give you a logical explanation. While I have no problem speaking before hundreds of people, put me in a room where I’m supposed to strike up conversations with people I don’t know and I become tense and uncomfortable.
I don’t like to be the one to initiate a conversation; I prefer that a person come to me. It’s not that I’m a snob (!); it’s just that I believe the crazy talk in my head. I tell myself that “they” aren’t going to want to chat with me; that they’ll think I’m trying to sell them something or get something from them. I tell myself that the conversation will go nowhere and I’ll embarrass myself. In short, I self-hypnotize myself with this nonsense.
I’m embarrassed just writing this and yet I know I’m not alone in thinking this way.
I’ve come up with a way to trick myself into staying at a networking event. I resolve not to leave until I get five business cards — a simple commitment I make to myself. So far, it’s helped. Having a goal makes me determined and once I start talking with someone, I relax, as I love chatting with folks. Usually, the person I’m speaking with introduces me to another person and so it goes until it’s the end of the evening and I’m walking away with more than five cards!
Last week, though, my trick didn’t work. After wandering around the ballroom for twenty minutes, I panicked. I decided to leave even though I didn’t feel happy about giving up so quickly. At the last minute, I decided to get a drink and just sit in the lounge area outside the ballroom. That’s it. My plan was not to leave — just sit and see what happened.
Within five minutes, Kristin, a woman I’ve done business with and who has become a friend, walked by on her way to the ladies’ room. We hugged and she told me not to move, as she’d be right back.
When she returned, we played catch-up as we made our way back into the ballroom where she introduced me to some friends, who introduced me to friends and so the night went on. I ended up enjoying myself and would have missed out on some great conversations had I given in to my early discomfort and fled.
The night was a great reminder of what can happen when I stand (or sit!) my ground against irrational fear.
What fear are you tired of giving-in to? Take a deep breath, have a seat, and let yourself be surprised!
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