As a quiet person I often feel really awkward around people, and quite frankly, a little bit boring. I just don’t know how to connect with people in the same way that a confident person seems to. I have often watched people at events and parties and marvelled at the way that they work the room with ease. Everybody that they come into contact with seems to be putty in their hands and I wonder how on earth they manage it.
This has meant that I have spent quite some time studying them to try and pick out exactly what it is that they do that is so different from what I do. And there is one striking difference that I have noticed. I quite obviously want to impress people, and with them, (even though they still want to impress people) it is far less glaringly obvious.
How not to go about it….
To illustrate, I think it’s best to look at an example of when I have done this spectacularly wrong. A couple of years back I decided that I wanted to earn a shed load of money so I got a job as a recruitment consultant. It was my job to go out and win over the financial directors at local businesses so that they would turn to me when they needed to recruit. I was woefully bad at the job and crashed out after eleven weeks having achieved absolutely no sales. It is only recently that I have started to see where things were going so wrong.
Back then I was drinking so I had some serious scarcity issues, completely believing that there isn’t enough to go around for everyone. Therefore, whenever I went in for business I felt absolutely desperate. My mind was clinging to the fact that I needed to connect with the person and get the sale as there would be nothing else for me if I lost it. That put a hell of a lot of pressure on me and it showed. I would go into the meeting terrified that I would not be able to impress the other person and it was obvious that they could see it. Hence the reason that they would shake my hand at the end of the meeting and I would never hear from them again. Because why would they want to hire a woman who was so blatantly desperate for the business?
A change in mindset changed how I connect with people
Since putting down the drink, a lot of things have changed but two of the big things are that:
- My values have changed so I’m not so engrossed by the thought of money. I know that I can survive on what I earn so it’s not the end of the world if I don’t earn the bucket loads that I used to chase after. As long as I can put a roof over my head and some food in the cupboards, I’m not going to die. And;
- I try not to worry so much about whether or not people like me. So if that one financial director decides that he doesn’t like my sense of humour or the colour of my shoes, it’s not the end of the world. There are seven billion people on the planet and so there are bound to be at least a few that really think the world of me!
So changing my mindset was the first step and this was then followed by a little trick that I have since tried out and it really does work. It was so simple that I didn’t believe it would have any effect on how well I connected with people.
Basically, all it involves doing is getting the person that you are engaging with to impress YOU. I couldn’t understand how this could work as my confidence was low and I didn’t know why anyone would want to try and impress me, but it really worked a treat.
Next time you go into a room and you’re nervous that nobody is going to connect with you, find someone to talk to and try to imagine that you have five minutes to learn a bit about them so that you could introduce them to an audience. This encourages you to start thinking “what can this person say that impresses me?” rather than “what do I have to say that will impress them?”
This also means that the other person feels listened to and this makes them feel valuable. Normally, in a networking environment people are all wanting to talk about themselves so if you’re the one that is bucking the trend you are going to be far more memorable.
The only thing that you need to remember with this technique is that it still pays to be kind. It’s fun to ask yourself what this person does that is impressive but don’t go in with the mentality that you are better than them or that you want to disregard them if they aren’t the most impressive person in the room. Liking the people around you, in turn, makes you more likeable so it’s always worth being the nice guy.
This also leads on to the point that you shouldn’t just go in thinking “what can I get out of this exchange?” It’s sometimes far better to think about what you may be able to give (and this is aside from the services you provide as a part of your business). So you might be able to start talking to the stranger who looks like they’re standing awkwardly in the corner, or you could put a person in contact with somebody you know who could be a help in their career. Neither of these give you any immediate benefit but you never know what it may lead to further down the line. Events are far more fun if you are focusing less on what monetary value you are going to get out of it. There is a reason that surprising benefits come out of meetings where you didn’t expect there to be any value. It’s because the real you can shine through and ultimately that is what people want to see.
Give it a try and see if it helps you to connect with people
So next time you’re at a networking event or business meeting , try it. Ask questions as though you are going to introduce the person on stage and try to forget about the transactional nature of the meeting. Look for things you can give for free, at no cost to yourself, and imagine that everybody is already your friend. I promise you that it’ll work and you might even find yourself having some fun.