Nothing prepares you less for networking events than law enforcement college. While a law enforcement education helped me hone many skills, actively initiating casual conversations in informal settings was not one of them. Many people who’ve seen my videos on various social networks, heard me speak on podcasts or have seen me speak live are surprised to hear that I was once terrified to go to networking events, but I knew that if I wanted to meet people, I would need to figure out a way to move past my fear and my tendency for introversion.
The difference between extroverts and introverts has been widely discussed, and it’s true that each of these personalities lends itself to entrepreneurship in its own way. However, contrary to popular belief, this isn’t an either-or scenario. You can adapt and be an introvert or an extrovert depending on the situation. In order to adapt, you will need to change your mindset. Instead of asking yourself, “What do I need to be able to engage in this situation?” ask, “What does this situation need from me?”
This is what prolific author and leading expert in personality styles, Dr. Tony Alessandra calls “The Platinum Rule.” You’re likely already familiar with the Golden Rule, which tells us to treat others the way we would like to be treated. The Platinum Rule elevates this idea to build stronger relationships. “The Platinum Rule accommodates the feelings of others,” says Dr. Alessandra. “The focus of relationships shifts from ‘this is what I want, so I’ll give everyone, including you the same thing’ to ‘let me first understand what they want and then I’ll give it to them.’” Dr. Alessandra shared with me in conversation.
When applied to networking and relationship-building situations, the Platinum rule calls on us to adapt and change depending on the opportunity and on our own goals for the interaction. For example, as a professional speaker and educator I am extroverted in order to deliver information, but when I attend seminars as a guest, I’m more introverted to take in the environment as a participant rather than being a focal point. Adapting in this way requires us to change—on a case by case basis—how we communicate, but it does not require us to change who we are at our core.
A willingness to step out of your comfort zone and reflect on the strategies provided will help you build meaningful relationships. Your relationships make a difference in the results you’ll achieve, the impact you’ll have and the speed with which you create opportunities for yourself.
1. Embrace your passion.
Passion is what fuels me when I am working through fear or discomfort. When I embrace my passion—helping others achieve their potential—I’m compelled to share it with the world! When you are passionate about your product, idea or service you pay less attention to how you are perceived. Instead, you’ll focus more on how you feel, and on sharing your excitement for what you have to offer to others.
2. Be willing to say “hello.”
Ever stood in an elevator with one other person and watched the floors go by? What if, instead, you took advantage of the opportunity to acknowledge the other person? I smile and say “Hello” to every person I make contact with as often as I can. You may have heard that smiling is contagious and enables others to feel more connected to you—saying hello has similar effects. The power of a smile and a “hello” goes a long way.
3. Practice persistence.
When you’re motivated by a desire to achieve success—whatever that looks like for you—not only should you try to move past your comfort zone, but you simply cannot afford to remain there. Learn to manage your fears of rejection, criticism and failure, especially when it comes to relationship building.
Follow up with the connections you make, even when you feel like you’ve been shut down or rejected. When you believe in your product, your company and yourself you must be willing to be persistent in your pursuits and risk being criticized for them. In other words, never settle for a “no.” “No” can mean “not yet,” or “not today,” or “not quite like this.” Those no’s can feel like failures, but oftentimes the best response is to persist and try again until you get the momentum going—worse than being told “No” is giving up too soon on an opportunity for a “Yes.”
4. Find your focus.
It’s always about the other person.
Have you ever been to an event and seen others naturally gravitate towards certain people? Communicating comes easy for some. They just seem to have a natural flair for conversation. They have a strong sense of confidence or charisma that endears them to others. And their ease comes from being able to shift the focus away from themselves onto others.
The next time you find yourself at a party or networking event, consider asking questions that focus the interaction back on your conversational partner. A few quick questions about their children, a recent holiday or a spouse’s new hobby can help you to foster trust. The goal of each interaction should be to strengthen your relationships and ultimately open doors to new possibilities and opportunities.
Always be you!
Results Driver | Strategic Thinker
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