Type Differences: How to Cope

I am an INFJ.  My best friend is an ESTP.

My DeskYup.  Complete opposites.  And, as you can imagine, this has led to many misunderstandings.  I’d visit her office and see endless piles of paper and think “How can anyone be this disorganized?”  She’d visit my workspace, look at my clean desk and wonder “How can she get anything done?”

She’d schedule five activities in a weekend, I’d get burned out with one.  And we both felt sorry for the other.  I’d think how lonely someone must be to over-schedule like that, she’d think how sad I was with my one measly little weekend activity.

Then one day we had an ah-ha moment.  Watching her run around busily one day I told her, “I’d go crazy if I had that much to do.” Her reply was, “I’d go crazy if I had that little to do!”  Suddenly we both understood that our differences didn’t make one of us right and the other wrong.  They just made us different.

It’s not easy being different from the people close to you.  Especially since much of the time we operate in neutral, not realizing that the way we are isn’t the only way to be.  We don’t pay attention to other people’s motivations, we just know that their behavior feels wrong.  Someone who doesn’t arrive at a gathering with at least a 5 minute margin of safety can seem careless about arriving on time.  People who want to stay at the party when we’re ready to leave can seem inconsiderate.

But we can learn to bridge those differences.  In my INFJ Took Kit I have a document called Type Contrasts that can be used to:

Understand what’s natural to your type.  Typically we’ve done things the same way all our lives and aren’t aware of the choices we’re making.  Work to understand how you like things done and think about how this might impact others.

Figure out what’s natural to the opposite type.  People with opposite preferences not only perceive the world in a completely different way, they have different needs and ways of expressing themselves.  Becoming familiar with other’s inclinations will help us understand them better and will enable us to explain how we feel in a way they can process.

Learn to explain your feelings to others.  People who’s preferences are opposite to ours will never learn to understand us unless we help them.  Many years ago I was traveling with an extroverted friend and at the end of an active day I settled down with some magazines for some down time.  Unfortunately she was up and ready to go and she literally danced around in front of me trying to get my attention.  I just kept reading, trying to protect myself from what felt like an onslaught of energy.  I felt that she was overbearing, she felt that I was rude.  We never talked about it but she hasn’t spoken to me in the 20 years since our trip.  I suspect that she’d still be my friend today if I’d just thought to say “I’m fried right now, Becky, give me an hour of quiet time and then we can do something fun.”

It’s our responsibility to help others understand what we are feeling.  Here are some explanations I find myself frequently using:

  • “I need to think about that a few minutes, then I can tell you what I think.”
  • “I tend to not remember specific details.” (I use this when I’m pressed for information I simply don’t remember.)
  • “It hurts my feelings when you…”(fill in the blank, my list is pretty long!)
  • “I enjoy being organized, it makes traveling more fun for me.”

Ask questions when you don’t understand someone’s behavior.  How much easier it would have been for Becky and me if one of us had asked the other what was  going on with them.  If you don’t understand why someone is behaving the way they are just ask.  Make it gentle, make it polite and accept the answer you’re given but ask! Even if I’d just said “Feeling antsy?” to Becky that might have been enough to validate her feelings and not make her feel rejected.  And if she’d asked “Why are you just sitting there?” I might have been able to make her understand that I needed some downtime.

My ESTJ friend and I have learned over the years to respect our differences and ask about things that don’t make sense to us.  But I can still see that I’m still a mystery to her as I start my Christmas shopping in September, make my endless lists, and, of course, keep a sparkling clean desk.

17 Graphs That Are Way Too Real For Introverts (Buzzfeed)

I couldn’t resist passing this clever list from Buzzfeed along to my fellow introverts.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/annaborges/brb-im-introverting#.ifGVXmYAM

3 Steps to Confidence

Self ConfidenceMost of my life I’ve struggled with confidence and I hear the same from other INFJs. Over the years I’ve watched people who appeared confident and worked to figure out what makes them tick.  What I finally realized is that self-assurance isn’t some kind of inborn magic that only a lucky few have.  It’s a specific mind set, a perspective that anyone can learn.

Here are 3 steps that will help start you on the path to confidence:

1.  Stop worrying about what other people think of you

Self-consciousness, worrying about what others will think, is an instant confidence drainer.  People who are confident don’t stress if they’re under-dressed for a party or if people don’t agree with them.  Confident people own who they are and don’t care if they’re different.  They don’t get upset every time they goof up and if someone doesn’t like them they don’t agonize over it, they just shrug and move on.

2.  Be yourself

Imagine a shy person at a party, shrinking back in a corner, obviously worried that no one will talk to them. Now imagine that person sitting comfortably in that same corner, but they are relaxed and are enjoying just sitting quietly and watching the activities around them.  The first person is clearly insecure and anxious, the second comes across as relaxed and confident.  The difference between the two is that the second person accepts their quietness and just enjoys their experience of the party, the first resists who they naturally are and thinks they should be different. 

It’s interesting, once we really step in to our natural preferences, they stop feeling like problems and simply become facets of our personality.  Once I embraced the fact that I remember experiences rather than facts, I was no longer embarrassed that I forgot details and started enjoying my ability to replay the feeling of a sunny day or the joy expressed by the bride at her wedding.   

3. Focus on living a rich life rather than impressing others

You want to be beautiful/handsome, interesting, exciting and magnetic?  The good news is that you have everything you need to be all those things. Beauty?  It’s found in a relaxed smile, enthusiasm and personal style (think of the charismatic appeal of Adrian Brody, who’s exuberant personality makes him attractive, crooked nose and all). You want to be interesting and exciting? You’re both when you’re discussing areas that are obviously fascinating to you, areas that you’ve explored and spent time delving into (check out the engaging and compelling Benjamin Zander on TED.  I don’t care a thing about piano playing but I was riveted when I saw this little talk).  

In other words, the more you focus on who you are in the world, on learning, growing and connecting with others, the more attractive and confident you’ll be.

Sure, there are people who are born with confidence.  They don’t struggle like we do with shyness and insecurity.  But confidence is less about personality and more about self-acceptance.  People who are confident aren’t focused on their flaws, they’re focused on living life.  Rather than asking “Will this person like me?” they ask “What’s this person like?” When they make a faux pax they apologize and move on.  They enjoy who they are, idiosyncracies and all, because they know that their uniqueness is what makes them special.

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #7 Seek Approval From Within

This is Called
Image by AJ Brustein via Flickr

I spent some time reading an INFJ online bulletin board and was surprised and embarrassed at how many of the posts just shrieked “poor me!”  It showed up over and over again –  “nobody appreciates me!”  “I’m so sensitive!”  “he did this to me, she did that…!”

I was surprised both by the quantity of the complaints and by the fact that the people posting them seemed to feel so victimized.

However I was embarrassed because they sounded startlingly similar to the whining that often is going on in my own head.

Which made me realize that all that complaining is pretty unappealing. Even though it’s true that INFJs are sometimes overlooked and underappreciated, it doesn’t benefit us to focus on it.  In order to reach our full potential in life we need to stop seeking external validation.  We need to accept the fact that our power is subtle, our passion is quiet, and our strength is internal.

We need to stop relying on the approval of others to feel good about ourselves.

It’s not as hard as you might think:

Create an internal measure of validation – Identify your own values, what’s important to you, and determine the worth of your actions based on those. If you’re passionate about helping others then your work tutoring illiterate adults is priceless, no matter what anyone says or doesn’t say. And if you get some praise for it, that’s nice, but stay connected with the fact that helping someone is what’s important, getting external recognition is a perk.

Celebrate your accomplishments – Don’t wait for someone else to acknowledge your triumphs, do it yourself.  Just finished the first draft of your book?  Treat yourself to a day off where you can do whatever you want.  Had the courage to take on a tough assignment at work?  Buy yourself a new leather portfolio to help you feel a touch more professional at the meetings you’ll be attending. By acknowledging your own successes you’re not only recognizing the value of your work, you’re also reducing your reliance on others’ approval.

Understand that you can still be right even if no one else agrees with you – There are times when I just know I’m right about something and no one around me will acknowledge it.  When that happens it can feel like my knowledge doesn’t mean anything because no one else sees it. I suspect that most INFJs encounter this – our insights are often so subtle that they can appear to have been pulled out of thin air to our less intuitive companions.

You’ll always be frustrated until you accept the simple fact that sometimes you’ll know more than the people around you.  Again, it’s about understanding that your wisdom is solid, deep, and enough.  You don’t need the recognition of others to confirm that you know what you know.

My coach once called me a “silent warrior” and that resonated with me.  I think that is a great way to look at the internal power, insight and strength that INFJs carry with them.

Exercise: Identify Your Values

One of the best ways to determine the value of your actions is to make sure you have a clear understanding of your values.

  1. Make a list of the things that are most important in your life (aside from your basic needs such as food, clothing, etc). My list, for example, would include the following:  loyal friends that I can laugh with, time with my daughter, finding the best way for me to help others people, my home, reading, doing work that matters, creating something meaningful, and learning.
  2. Review your list with an eye towards looking for your values – they should be easy to spot.  The values that come out of my list are: friendship, laughter, family, helping others, nesting, reading & learning, creativity and contribution.
  3. Keep a list of your values and make it a living document – mature it by adding other areas as you notice them.  Use it when making decisions and compare how you spend your time with what’s on your list.

This is the seventh installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

 

 

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #5 Protect Your Heart

 Heart

I’ve said it before – one of the best things about being an F is how tender-hearted we are. And one of the hardest things about being an F is how tender-hearted we are! 

Like most F’s I seek harmony. And when one of my friends or loved ones is in a bad mood it’s really difficult not take it personally. My natural tendency is to make it about myself – “What did I do?” or “Why is he being so mean to me?” But this is a form of self-absorption: we’re focused on our reaction, on how we feel, rather than what’s happening with the other person. We need to shift the question from “Why is he picking on me?” to “What’s going on with him that’s upset him so much?”

Some Tips for Dealing with Others’ Upsets

Don’t take it personally – When someone else is upset, it’s about them, not you. Even if they lash out at you or blame you – remember that everyone loses perspective when they’re distraught. Keep your cool and give them the gift of your compassion.

Don’t try to fix or soothe them – you can’t – Telling someone the “look at the bright side” or to “feel better” doesn’t do anything except negate what they’re feeling. You can provide a safe and nurturing space for someone who’s upset by just listening and encouraging them to talk about how they feel.

Watch out for perennial victims – I used to work with a woman who always focused on the worst aspect of any situation. When she started a new job she’d immediately identify who “hated” her. Every setback was a disaster, every problem was the worst thing she’d ever dealt with. For years I rode these ups and downs with her, worrying about her latest insolvable problem or dysfunctional relationship. I finally recognized that her life was spent moving from trauma to trauma. I learned to provide a sympathetic ear and bits of feedback when I thought she could handle it, but I stopped getting sucked in to the drama of it all.

Avoid taking on their pain – Your compassion helps, your hurting along with the other person doesn’t. This also goes for all the painful input out there – TV news coverage of disasters or violence, commercials showing abused animals, even graphic movies or TV shows. Staying whole will enable you to use your compassion and caring to fuel contributions to solutions, taking on others’ pain will only weaken and distract you.

I know, all this is easier said than done. But it benefits everyone when you can provide a supportive, calm and grounded environment when someone close to you is upset – I like to think of it as giving the gift of being strong when they’re at their weakest.

Exercise: Who Owns This Problem?

Like the 6 Questions in Manage Those Pesky Emotions, you can use a few of questions to explore the emotions around interpersonal upsets. When you find yourself dealing with an upsetting situation, ask yourself:

  1. Who owns this problem? The person who is impacted by the problem is the owner, not you. In the example above, my friend’s problems belongs solely to her, in no way should they become my problems. The only exception to this is when the other person is a child or a defenseless creature – then ownership is shared by everyone.
  2. Have I contributed to the problem?
    If the answer is “yes” the question then becomes: What can I do to make it right? (and it’s often as simple as apologizing)
    If the answer is “no” the question then becomes: Do I want to help and is it appropriate for me to do so?
  3. What do I want my involvement to be? Make sure that if and how you help is your decision. You should always have final say on how much you want to help, and what contribution you are willing to make.

This is the fifth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life: #4 Learn to Say “No” and Mean It

Stop SignBoundaries are a loaded topic for me.  Like many INFJs it’s hard for me to say “No” to someone I care about, and I have the tendency to want to look to others to for happiness.  It takes work for me to get clear about how far I’m willing to go in some situations and to communicate that to others.

I didn’t learn much about healthy boundaries when I was growing up, so I’ve turned to the experts.  What follows is the information I found on how to figure out what’s right for me.

Rights of the Assertive Person

One of our basic rights is the right to say “no” when we don’t want to do something.  David Richo in his “Rights of the Assertive Person” from his book How to Be an Adult elaborates further:

Richo’s list of rights:

  1. To ask for 100% of what you want from 100% of the people in your life, 100% of the time.
  2. To enjoy emotional and physical safety.  No one has the right to hurt you, even if she loves you.
  3. To change your mind or make mistakes.
  4. To decide when and whether or not you are responsible for (a) finding solutions to others’ problems or (b) taking care of their needs.
  5. To say No or Maybe without pressure to decide in accord with someone else’s timing.
  6. To be illogical in making decisions.
  7. To have secrets, to decide how much of yourself or your life you choose to reveal.
  8. To be free to explain your choices or not (includes not having to make excuses or give reasons when you say No).
  9. To be non-assertive when you see that as appropriate.
  10. To maintain the same principles, skills and rights of assertiveness with your partner, parents, children or friends.

Visible and Invisible Boundaries

This is a list I’ve extracted from Anne Katherine’s terrific book Boundaries: Where You and I Begin. She describes how she sets boundaries:

  • I set my physical boundary by choosing who can touch me and how and where I am touched.  I decide how close I’ll let people come to me.
  • I set my emotional boundary by choosing how I’ll let people treat me.  One way I do this is by setting limits on what people can say to me.
  • Healthy, safe expressions of anger by people I’m close to are acceptable. In appropriate anger from an inappropriate person [e.g. strangers] is not.
  • Setting emotional boundaries includes deciding what relationships I’ll foster and continue and what people I’ll back away from because I can’t trust them.

What’s Appropriate?

Katherine also provides a list of what’s appropriate based on orientation:

  • If you’re looking up to a person for guidance, supervision or parenting, you are not his peer.  If he’s your dad, minister, therapist, or boss, you are not required to parent or counsel him.
  • If you’re looking down to a person because she’s a child, a client, or a subordinate, she is not your peer.  She should not be counseling you.  And you should not give her inappropriate personal information.
  • If you’re looking across to a person, she’s your peer.  You support each other.  You confide in each other.  Giving goes both ways.
  • If you’re doing peer things with someone you look up or down to, something’s wrong.  A boundary is being crossed.
  • If you’re looking down or up at someone who’s a peer, something’s wrong.  A wife is not a subordinate.  A husband is not a boss.

 

Exercise: Define Your Boundaries

As you read the lists above you might notice that adhering to them requires lots of decisions. How much do you want to reveal?  Is that person a peer or subordinate?  It’s helpful to explore your answers ahead of time so that as situations occur you’ve already figured out where your boundary is.

Create a Will/Won’t List  – This exercise is designed to identify your boundaries with the people in your life. I use Will/Won’t Lists anytime I find myself struggling with not wanting to hurt someone or feeling like I’m being asked for more than I want to give.

  1. On a piece of paper or Word document create three columns.  At the top of the first column put “Who” and the other two columns are “What I Will Do” and “What I Won’t Do” (see sample below)
  2. In the “Who” column list the significant people in your life or someone who you’re having difficulty setting boundaries with.
  3. In the next two columns list what’s ok and what’s not. In the sample below I’ve listed my boundaries for my family and in general.
Who

What I Will Do

What I Won’t Do

  My Family
  • Understand and accept that they are different from me
  • Be as kind as possible
  • Be respectful
  • Recognize Xmas and birthdays
  • Be kindly honest
  • Respond when they reach out to me
  • Be submissive
  • Feel guilty
  • Engage in games
  • Respond to disrespectful communications
  • Attend family gatherings when I don’t want to
  • Tell them what they want to hear just to keep the peace
  Others in General
  • Be as honest and straightforward as possible
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be proud of my coaching career
  • Extend myself for others when appropriate and to an appropriate degree
  • Be submissive
  • Do things I don’t want to do just to be nice
  • Judge
  • Give unsolicited advice
  • Agree just to be nice
  • Be ashamed of things I like (like watching TV)

Exercise: Practice “No” Sandwiches

As INFJs we can have trouble saying “No.”  We don’t want to hurt feelings or create disharmony.  But in order to observe our boundaries we need to get good at saying no.  The No Sandwich is a great way to do it.

The components of a No Sandwich:

[Statement of regret or acknowledgement]  [Straightforward No]  [Positive follow up]

Statement of regret or acknowledgement – This is an honest, but positive, statement either expressing real regret or an acknowledgement of the other person’s position.  A statement of regret can be simply “I’d love to go but …”, “I’d really like to help but…”  The key here is, again, honesty.  If you say you’d love to go you will be invited again, so don’t say it if you don’t mean it.

If you really don’t feel regret, the first part of your statement can be just an acknowledgement of the other person.  Examples are “I appreciate you including me but…” or “I know that this is important to you but…”

Straightforward No – Keep your “no” simple.  You don’t need to give a reason (which can imply that negotiation is possible) you just need to say no thanks.

Positive follow up – This is just a respectful and kind statement to cement your “no” and take the sting out of it.  They are statements such as ” thanks so much “, “maybe next time” (but only if you mean it), “good luck” or “have fun.”

Here are some examples of a No Sandwhich:

“I love that you want to include me, but I can’t make it.  Have a great time, the weather should be beautiful!”

“I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into this, but I’m going to do it the way I originally planned.  I appreciate your effort, though.”

“That looks delicious, but no thanks.  How about giving some to Grandpa? He loves cookies.”

“I know that this is important to the school district, but I won’t be able to run the book drive.  Why don’t you sign me up to help collect books?”

If you want to include a reason, by all means do, but don’t argue about it if the other person pushes back.  Consider a statement of “That looks delicious but I’m watching my weight” as an absolute, and if the other person says “Oh, just one won’t hurt,” smile and move away.  You’ve said no.

The truth is, though, that no matter how gentle we are, sometimes people still won’t like our answer, which can be painful for an INFJ.  Our desire for harmony and our concern about hurting others can feel overwhelming when we say “no”.  However, it’s part of life and being an adult to set limits and accept the fact that others won’t always agree with our decisions.

This is the fourth installment in a series of 10 weekly articles about making the most of being an INFJ.  For previous articles visit 10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life.

How to Impress Others

Photo by beastmanphotos via Flickr

We all want to be smart, beautiful, magnetic. We want to impress others with our charm and intelligence. What’s the best way to dazzle those around us? It’s not what you might think.

First, a simple exercise. Make a list of five things you want others to think about you. Each item on the list should start with “I’d like others to think I’m…” Your list might include things like “loveable”, “intelligent” or “a leader”. Create your list now and don’t read any farther until you have at least five items on it.

Done? Now take a look at the items on your list – it’s likely that these are where you put a lot of your energy and focus. They are probably the areas you tend to stress about, that trigger your insecurities. My guess is that this is where you want to look good but feel that you don’t.

The problem is that wanting “others to think” you’re anything (fill in the blank – smart, cute, charismatic…) puts the focus on merely looking good. And when our efforts go into looking good we can end up convincing ourselves that looking good is equal to actually being good – believing that talking like an intellectual is the same as being intelligent (and who hasn’t found themselves with someone who loves to hear themselves talk as they try to impress others?)

But don’t throw away your list! It’s a valuable inventory of areas that are important to you, areas that you really do want to improve in your life. You can use that information to figure out where to put your efforts and energy to learn and grow.

Using the list you created, identify an action step for each item that will move you towards being good in the areas you care about.

For example using the list in the second paragraph one might work to:

  • Become more loveable by building sincere connections with others
  • Increase your knowledge by reading about an era in history you’re interested in, joining a book club or taking a class
  • Learn leadership skills by asking someone seen as a leader to be your mentor

When we put our focus on merely looking good we often achieve the opposite effect. Plus, our efforts are usually surprisingly transparent to others, and we may waste valuable time and resources in trying to create what is, ultimately, an illusion. By focusing on improving our knowledge or skills in the areas that are important to us, we end up not only achieving more but we also end up looking good naturally and effortlessly.

What Do You Want?

My friend Ann recently ended a 37 year teaching career and, to her chagrin, she’s not finding retirement much fun.  She’s shocked at how hard it’s been to find something to fill her days, even though she’s gotten lots of well-meaning advice.

“One of my friends suggested I go back to teaching, but I don’t want to do that. Another suggested tutoring, but I don’t want to do that either.  And I don’t want to just sit around at home and do nothing, it’s so boring.  Another friend told me that I would get used to just relaxing, I just have to give it more time. But I feel like I should be doing something.   And my art!  I’m not interested in my pottery anymore, I thought when I retired I’d have plenty of time to work in my studio, but now I don’t want to!”

Yikes, it sounds like everyone Ann knows has weighed in on how she should be spending her retirement.  But the only person that who knows what’s best for Ann is Ann herself.

Here’s how she can narrow down her options:

Step #1 – Clear out the “Shoulds”

Notice all the “shoulds” in what Ann said – she should do something, she should relax, she should teach, she should still want to do her art.

When you pile on the “shoulds” your thoughts and feelings get lost under all those other voices telling you what to do.  Ann has so many shoulds that they cancel each other out – she should be relaxing, teaching and doing her art, all at the same time!

Step #2 – Narrow it down by staying broad

The next step is to start to identify what it might feel like if you already had what you want.  If you imagine that you’re in the middle of doing whatever it is you want to do, in a general, non-specific way, you can begin to identify more specific information.

Start by pretending that you’ve already achieved your goal, whether it’s finding the perfect job, spouse, or  fabulous vacation.  Then ask yourself not what it is, but what it feels like.  In Ann’s situation her questions might be:

  • What does my body feel like? (I’m active, sitting, I can feel the wind, I’m warm and cozy, etc.)
  • Where am I? (outside, inside, with people, alone, in an office, in nature, etc.)
  • What type of activity am I engaged in? (helping people, making something, building something, writing, etc.)
  • What emotions am I feeling (love and connection, freedom, silly, relaxed, in flow, etc.)

An example – If I’d answered these questions when I was figuring out that I wanted to be a Life Coach, my answers would have been something like:

I’m working alone, very relaxed, in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere.  I’m helping people in some way, I’m writing, and maybe doing something artistic.  I’m enjoying a sense of freedom at the ability to do my heart’s work.  I’m challenging myself, but in ways that I choose rather than what others might choose for me. 

Step #3 – Use your insights to start your search

Once you’ve figured out what your job/vacation/retirement activity feels like, you have the information you need to start identifying possibilities. You can use your list when you talk to friends and family and get suggestions based on what you want, not what they think you want.  And you can use your list as criteria when you start evaluating your ideas.

***

It’s clear from what Ann said that she has a lot more information than she thinks she does.  When we get rid of all her shoulds, what emerges is the beginning of a very specific and helpful list: Ann wants to DO SOMETHING (all caps, it’s not a trivial something she’s looking for), she wants to get out of her house, be active and engaged, and, clearly, she wants what she does to be new and different.

It’s easy to get caught up in what we think we should be doing, you can see by Ann’s story that when that happens progress can grind to a halt.  But when we start our search by exploring what the outcome will feel like and then narrow down our options, we’re able to cut though the noise and get to the heart of our desires.

 

 

Field Guide to the Loner: The Real Insider (Psychology Today)

This is a terrific article from Psychology Today on Introverts.  Even though in the article we’re called “loners” it does a great job of illustrating the fact that much of the time we’re quite happy to be alone.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200703/field-guide-the-loner-the-real-insiders

Networking for Introverts – Mixers & Meetings

I am an introvert. And, until I started my own business, I usually avoided groups of people I didn’t know. That changed, however, when I realized that the best place to make new contacts is networking meetings and mixers. I found that all it took was a shift in my perspective to make networking events not only easy but fun (yes, fun!).

To make the most of networking events:

#1    Relax
Most people are at networking meetings and mixers for the same reason you are – to make new contacts and build their business. Unlike parties, where people often cluster in groups that can be intimidating to break into, at networking functions people tend to mix and chat in smaller groups. Still, walking into a room of strangers can be intimidating.

Some key things to remember :

  • Keep things in perspective – you have nothing to lose. At worst you’ll waste a couple of hours, but you could end up meeting someone who’ll contribute to your success.
  • No one is focused on you, and no one will notice if you stand alone for a few minutes. And if you do stand alone and look pleasant, it’s very likely that someone will come up and talk to you.
  • It doesn’t really matter if there’s someone you don’t click with. We sometimes worry that others won’t like us, but if they don’t, so what? Just move on and find someone you have more in common with.
  • And, finally, remember, you can leave any time you want!

#2  Focus on connecting with people rather than selling them
I’ve met people at networking functions who instantly launched into an obviously memorized long-winded sales pitch for their product or service. Not only was I turned off, but I also didn’t want to recommend them to anyone else and subject others to their pitch.The best use of networking meetings is to connect with other business people who can refer potential clients to you. I’m not saying that you can’t gain clients from these functions, but I am saying that you’ll only get clients if people feel a connection to you, and for that to happen they have to get to know you a bit, and not just hear about your product. Plus, it’s a lot more fun!

#3  Be prepared
Create a short (2-3 sentence) introduction that summarizes the benefits of your service and practice it until it’s easy to remember. At informal events you can use your introduction to describe your business as you meet people. At more structured groups you may be expected to stand up and introduce yourself – if you’re prepared it’s quick and painless. It’s also helpful to write up a list of the benefits of your product and practice saying them before the meeting.

#4  Avoid overwhelm
At the first few networking meetings I went to I felt that every two minutes I was getting information I needed to act on or invitations to participate in other events, classes, or groups. I would get so overwhelmed that I was exhausted by the end of the event, and my automatic answer for all invitations became “No”.

To head off overwhelm, plan to “unpack” the event in a day or two when you have more time. At the event simply tuck business cards and brochures into your bag or folder and make notes about items you want to follow up on. This takes the immediate pressure off and gives you time to recover before trying to process everything.  I also make it a rule to never accept or refuse an invitation at a networking event. I simply respond with a pleasant “May I get back to you in the next couple of days?”   This gives me time to consider the invitation outside of the pressure of the meeting.

Networking events are great place to practice extroverting, and the more I attended the easier and more enjoyable they got.  The trick is to take the pressure off yourself and don’t worry about impressing or selling, just connect with others and enjoy yourself.