Networking for Introverts – by Ted Janusz
Studies show that up to 93 percent of adults consider themselves shy. And those studies were conducted even before we were encouraged to avoid others by adopting the practice of social distancing and to don the facial attire worn by bank robbers.
Is it any wonder then that when you now go to a social gathering, you may feel uncomfortable? You may look around the room and think (probably in error), “Everybody here knows each other!” or “I knew it was a bad idea to come here!” or “Everybody is looking at me!”
Relax. There is a good chance that most of the room is feeling just as you are. To advance both personally and professionally, we need to engage with people. And sometimes we just need to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
To lessen your anxiety, here are six things you can do:
- Determine in advance your reasons for attending a social event. If necessary, write out the reasons on the back of a business card and sneak a look at the card while you are at the event. You will find that you can do just about anything in life if your why is strong enough. The real secret to successful time management is to constantly ask oneself, “Is this the best use of my time right now?” If so, go to the event and make the best of it. If not, go do something else.
- Plan what you will say when you meet another person at the event. If you can make your opening statement interesting, or better yet humorous, the conversation can get off to a great start. For instance, at a wedding, one guest introduced herself by saying, “Hello! I am a former girlfriend of the groom’s father!”
- Go with a friend. You may know people at the event your friend is unfamiliar with, and vice versa. You can introduce your friend to others and say things about your friend that he may socially be unable to say about himself. And he can do the same for you! Speaker Patricia Fripp says, “It’s like being with your own PR person. We say about each other that which we would not say about ourselves.”
- Look for a person standing alone. “The person, who is speaking to no one, would welcome your conversation,” notes Susan RoAne, “The Mingling Maven,” and best-selling author of How to Work a Room: The Ultimate Guide to Making Lasting Impressions – in Person and Online. “Just because someone is standing alone doesn’t mean he or she is a snob or “unimportant.” People who are alone may be shyer than you.” Perhaps she is hidden under the fake palm tree, clutching a drink in her hands. Chances are, she is repeating those three statements (lies) at the beginning of this article. If you go over and introduce yourself to her, you may have a new best friend for life!
- Pretend you are a talk show host. Treat the person across from you as the most important guest of the evening. What questions (and answers) would your viewers or listeners want to have discussed? As a good host, make the conversation be about the guest, and not about you.
- When the other person begins to talk, listen. I believe that empathetic listening has three parts: 1) listen with your ears (obviously), but also 2) listen with your eyes, and 3) listen with your heart. Instead of planning your response, anxiously waiting for the other person’s lips to stop moving so that you can talk, take the time to be present with the other person.
Listen … Truly Listen
Best-selling author Stephen Covey asked, “Do we listen to understand? No! We listen to reply.” Let me relate the concept of empathetic listening to something I experienced recently. My wife took me into her garden to show off her phlox, mums or rhododendron. I’m not really sure because I am not into gardening. But I am into my relationship with my wife. So rather than thinking at the time about an upcoming presentation I was about to give, I needed to slow down and be in the moment with her.
Always take the time to truly be with the person with whom you are speaking. Do not constantly scan the room for somebody even “more important.”
How to Make Others Love (or Like) You
English journalist Jenni Murray talked about meeting former president Bill Clinton, “He made you feel for those few short moments that you were the only woman in the world and he’d never met anyone as interesting or as lovely as you.” Similarly, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis seemed to possess the ability to have men all over the world fall in love with her. Asked how she did it, the former First Lady replied, “Two ways. First of all, when a man would finish talking about himself and his work, I would say, ‘Tell me more!’”
(I can only imagine the nervous guy thinking to himself at this point, “Oh, nobody has ever asked me about quim-quat widgets before, but here goes …” We guys and our egos!)
Secondly, as the wife of a wealthy Greek shipping magnate, Jacqueline revealed, “I would hang on their eyes.”
Can you just imagine how powerful that effect must have been? Now, you may not want women or men all over the world to fall in love with you. You may only want to survive your next social gathering. However, you can adapt Mr. Clinton’s or Ms. Onassis’s strategies to help you achieve your goal.
F – O – R – D
If you tend to be an analytical type (and many shy people consider themselves to be), when you meet a new person, imagine the blue oval of the carmaker Ford emblazoned on her forehead. It will give you clues as to what you can talk about with your conversation partner.
The F stands for “Ask her about her family.” (Everybody has a family.)
The O references her occupation. That does not necessarily mean a paying job. My wife was a stay-at-home-mom, one of the most difficult jobs in the world. She was offended when somebody had the attitude, “Oh, you don’t really work!” So, occupation could even refer to a present vocation, for instance, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity or some other charitable organization.
The R means relaxation. Ask her what she likes to do for fun!
And if you really feel you have hit it off with your new acquaintance, ask her about D, her dreams.
Don’t Try to Impress, Ask Questions Instead
Another successful networking strategy is to ask questions rather than attempting to impress another person by talking about yourself.
I was interviewing for my first job out of graduate school. The firm sent a new hire who was a recent graduate to interview prospective employees from his alma mater. When it was my turn to sit down with him, I asked him about his experiences in graduate school – about the professors, the fraternities and sororities. The interviewer was thoroughly enjoying himself regaling me with interesting stories. When it was finally my turn to launch into my sales pitch, the interviewer interrupted me by saying, “Ted, you are exactly the kind of person we want working at our firm!”
Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, said, “Everybody has an invisible sign hanging from their neck saying, ‘Make me feel important.’ Never forget this message when working with [or meeting] people.”
What To Do If You Struggle With Small Talk
I thought when I would attend a social event I would need to develop an elevator pitch or some other pithy story, so that when another person would hear it, they would be forced to take a step back and exclaim, “Wow, Ted! That is so profound! Let me hire you right now!”
It isn’t going to happen. So don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself, either. Simply engage in small talk.
“Small talk,” says author Michael Korda, “should intrigue, delight, amuse, fill up time pleasantly. Given that, anything will do, from dogs to delicatessens. The aim of small talk is to make people feel comfortable – to put them at their ease – not to teach, preach or impress.
It’s a game, like tennis, in which the object is to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible.”
Networking … the Right Way
We have all been to a Chamber of Commerce mixer or some similar networking event, at which one of the attendees does networking the wrong way. His goal is to meet everybody in the room and to get right down to what he wants to accomplish. He’ll run up to you and say, “Hi!” while thrusting his business card into your hand. “I’m John. I fix computers. If you ever need your computer fixed, call me.”
Before you even have a chance to respond, John will rush off to his next … victim.
“I learned that real networking was about finding ways to make other people more successful,’ says Keith Ferazzi, author of Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. “It was about working hard to give more than you get. Those who are best at it don’t network – they make friends. The only way to get people to do anything is to recognize their importance and make them feel important.”
As Valentine’s Day approaches, love is in the air. But, if you are in a relationship with a co-worker or thinking about starting one, there’s plenty that you can do to avoid embarrassment, hurt or disruption for yourself and your colleagues. What should you know? Angela Civitella is a former executive, certified business leadership coach and founder of Intinde.
She Says There Are Six Things To Consider:
- Check your organization’s HR policy: Many organizations have their own policies on workplace relationships. For example, some companies frown upon one partner managing the other. It’s not that your boss doesn’t want you to be happy, there are larger considerations such as breaches of compliance, conflicts of interest, or inappropriate collusion. The safest option is to ask your HR department if it has a policy in place, and to let your HR Advisor know if you are in a workplace relationship.
- Consider your company’s culture: Even if it’s not written into HR policy, you need to get a feel for your organization’s cultural view on workplace relationships. This is especially important if you are working abroad, or in an organization with a different culture from your own.
- Agree to an approach with your partner: Chances are, your colleagues and co-workers already know that you “have a crush” on the redhead in the sales team or the “hunk” in communications, and they may already suspect that it has blossomed into a relationship. You have to decide with your partner how you’ll behave at work. Do you “come clean” and let your colleagues know what’s going on? Or, do you join the third of workplace couples who decide to keep their relationship a secret? Discuss whether to set some boundaries at work, such as not spending too much time alone together, or agreeing not to use your “pet names” for one another
- Stay professional at work: Your colleagues might approve of your office romance and think you’re the best-matched couple since Romeo and Juliet, but you still need to tread carefully. Indulging in in-jokes, private conversations, and public displays of affection can make your co-workers feel awkward. And if you and your partner are eating lunch together in the staff restaurant, other colleagues may not know whether you want privacy or would welcome the extra company. Why not invite a few more people along? Even if they decline your invitation, you have made the offer. If you discuss business matters together – or, worse still, make business decisions – while your co-workers are absent, it will likely cause resentment. If you’re managing your partner, you need to be especially mindful of your professional interactions, and be seen to be extra careful to treat your other team members equally and fairly.
- Be prepared for gossip! Human beings are social animals, and we connect with one another by sharing stories and experiences. And the more exciting or shocking those stories, the more engaging they become. So, even if you rigorously follow the rules and are careful with your actions, some people may be quick to make assumptions and to see favoritism or nepotism that’s just not there. It’s a kind of fake news.
- Plan for the worst: What if the relationship ends? You have to remain professional if your workplace relationship comes to an end, no matter what the reason. This can be a difficult time for you, your ex-partner, and your colleagues, especially if you still have to work closely together. An acrimonious split can poison the atmosphere in the workplace, and impact productivity and morale. If you manage your ex-partner, make sure that you don’t discriminate against them, or you and your organization risk being the subject of a grievance procedure. Don’t get involved in “muck-raking” or “washing your dirty linen in public,” even if your former partner does.
Written By: Angela Civitella, a former executive, certified business leadership coach and founder of Intinde.
One of the biggest misconceptions about becoming your own boss is that you have to create a grand business plan in order to be successful. Luckily, that isn’t always the case. There are options to do what you love and provide services that can allow you the freedom of being self-employed. If you love to teach, bake, create, provide child care, get people organized, then you can become your own boss! All you have to do is decide on the service you can provide and make your dream a reality!
Business.org is ready to help American’s ditch the “9 to 5” and become their own boss in 2020. But which dreams are American’s most likely to pursue? It turns out that entrepreneurs who want to go solo (like an entrepreneur but doing it solo), have quite a few options they’re exploring. Using data from Google Trends, we found around 30 frequently searched solopreneur jobs. We then broke those jobs down by state to figure out where, exactly, each solopreneurial venture is most popular. Check out the full report to each state’s results.”
Here are some interesting findings about on the most popular solopreneur jobs nationwide for 2020.
- Surprising absolutely no one, California’s top-ranked solopreneur job is social media influencer
- A little more surprising? “Social media influencer” was also the most-searched term in Illinois and Texas—two lovely
states, of course, but both with a much lower reputation for stardom than La-La Land.
- Estheticians had the most-searched solopreneur job in Hawaii (spa treatments clearly go hand in hand with paradise-
- People in Idaho and Utah seem to need a little extra encouragement; life coaching came in first in both states.
- “Amazon seller” took first place in three states thousands of miles apart: Florida, Nevada, and New Jersey. Obviously,
solopreneurs can follow Amazon’s motto (“Work Hard. Have Fun.”) no matter where in the US they live.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. Kate and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time. These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.
KNOWING YOUR ZOMBIES
Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:
- Negative zombies – Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
- Minimum-contributor zombies – They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
- Status-quo zombies – These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
- Shortcut zombies – They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE
To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:
- The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
- The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
- The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
- The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.
MAKING THE CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management. Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory. Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.
Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.
Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.
Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.
Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs. No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.
Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.
Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.
- Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
- Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
- Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
- Do managers confront negativity?
- Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
- Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
- Does a strong zombie-screening interview process exist?
- When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?
The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.
Have you ever said something at work you wish you hadn’t? Sometimes the wrong words just blurt out to employees or with the client. The first step in fixing common communication blunders on the job is to know what those blunders are. Then you can say something the smart way and not the dumb way. Verbal communication expert, Greg Alcorn, CEO of Global Contact Services (GCS) of Salisbury, NC, is the author of 7 Dumb Things We All Say and speaks to thousands of people each year on improving verbal communication at work.
BELOW, GREG HAS LISTED THE SEVEN BIGGEST BLUNDERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE USED, BUT HAVE DEFINITELY COME ACROSS!
ONE: Using Bad Bookends. The biggest blunder is starting and ending what you say with the wrong phrasing. Conversation bookends are the small comments or questions just before or right after a full statement or request for action. Be better with your starting and ending bookends. Pre-sentence bookends as a tool can be engaging, demeaning, or distracting. Names are great bookends. Starting a sentence with the name of the person you are talking to warms that person up. “Mary, may I put you on hold?” Saying your name last in your introduction makes it easy for the person you are talking with remember your name. “This is the help line; my name is Jack.”
TWO: Starting with Wrong First Words. Are you familiar with the adage, “Getting off on the wrong foot”? Conversations have first impressions, and they begin with your first three words. Hint: one of the words should be the other person’s name. Using names is important when speaking on the phone, especially conference calls. Conference call principle number one is if you’re going to call on somebody, start with the name. Instead of saying, “What were the metrics on our operations yesterday, Frank?” ask the right way: “Frank, what were the metrics on our operation yesterday?” If you don’t start with the name, you might catch the person by surprise. It certainly catches people’s attention when you say their name first.
THREE: Not Choosing Your Words Well. The words you choose paint a picture for the listener. Your words express your attitude and your personality. Keep it positive. Don’t start a sentence with the word “no.” Even in introductions, you can’t go wrong with saying the person’s name first. A person’s name followed by the four words “I need your help” is a winner. “Rachel, I need your help.” This is especially powerful when it’s in a situation in which you might be the boss and the other person might be a manager, or you might be in a perceived superior position.
FOUR: Poor Questions and Bad Listening. Meaningful questions always stay on subject, keep a conversation moving forward, and ensure the other person feels heard and understood. Becoming a better listener is easier than you might think. It starts by committing to be a great listener and making an active choice to listen. Ask good questions and really listen. This is the “You have two ears and one mouth” principle.
FIVE: Focus-on-Me Attitude. Making it all about you is a turn off for them. This is not a technique; this is an attitude. The best way to describe a benefit is to describe the feeling received. “I came by as soon as I heard you lost the sale; I’m sad.” The fellow employee can recognize the extra effort and surely appreciates the sentiment. It’s a powerful sentence. A special visit, a sense of urgency, and a sincere feeling (sad). Empathy shows feelings.
SIX: Wrong Tone. People feel more comfortable with pleasant, variable tone quality. Voice tone is made up of rate, pitch, and volume. Think tone and don’t drone. The tone of our voice helps others to hear our empathy. The rate, pitch, and volume of our statements of empathy helps express feelings. Usually, but not always, we hear implied empathy when somebody slows down speech and lowers the pitch and volume. Say, “I am sad to hear that you lost the supermarket account,” and I’ll bet you will automatically say it slow and low. The same with excitement at the opposite end of the spectrum. Say “Team, we won the hotel account!” You can’t help but say it fast, high, and loud. Tone expresses empathy.
SEVEN: Not Diffusing Difficult Drama. Stressful conversations, or drama, can be avoided by mastering word selection, listening, and questioning skills. Drama can be inevitable, however. Most stressful situations can be defused when you apply the three Rs: recognize, restate, and reassure. Ask others: “What would you like to see happen?” Those are seven magic words that can defuse difficult drama: Words are just a tool, like electricity is a tool. And like any tool, they can be used for helping or for harming. Electricity can cook a person’s dinner, or it can burn a person’s dinner. Words can turn people on or turn people off.
Here is the bottom line: Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Then don’t say that, say something smarter.