Excerpt

Five of the Ten Reasons People Dislike or Hate Networking

Because networking is a key ingredient for success, it’s the people who have trouble with it who often find themselves held back in their careers. Therefore, it’s beneficial to identify the reasons for disliking the process. From there we can address necessary adjustments to overcome those hurdles.

If you have negative feelings about networking, the list, below, may help you uncover what may be holding you back. Perhaps you can relate to one or more of them. This could also benefit someone you know who needs to overcome their fear and network more effectively to improve their professional life.

1. Feeling awkward
Meeting people for the first time can be an uncomfortable experience, even for those extroverts and social butterflies among us. The whole idea of not knowing anything about the person you’re talking to makes many people feel extremely awkward. Some people find being around strangers so unsettling that they either make absolutely no effort to get to know them, or they remain too timid to pursue a relationship and take advantage of possible opportunities. Feelings of awkwardness are compounded when networking activities take place in unfamiliar locations with large numbers of unknown people milling about.

Awkwardness toward networking generally has its roots in shyness that causes varying degrees of anxiety. A survey conducted by Psychology Today revealed that 62 percent of participants experienced shyness on a daily basis, while 82 percent considered the feeling to be “undesirable.” Respondents were from various ethnic backgrounds and education levels, revealing the scope of the problem.

Most people are affected by natural shyness that can be overcome with some effort and by using various strategies. However, some people are plagued by a form of shyness that is categorized as a social phobia; it affects mood and behavior and often requires the assistance of psychologists and prescribed medications to be overcome. A 2011 study found that only 12 percent of those who identified themselves as shy actually met the clinical criteria for the phobia. If you consider yourself to be shy, you probably don’t need to worry. Natural shyness can be overcome by improving confidence and self-esteem. One of the best ways to do that is to practice making conversation with people with whom you’re already familiar. You can also turn to social media you do like, such as Facebook or Twitter.

2. Not knowing who to approach
Many people who are willing to try networking are hampered by not knowing which people to approach. The average person passes by or comes in contact with dozens of people throughout the day, any number of whom could potentially be beneficial contacts. The sheer volume of possible contacts can make deciding which individuals are the best prospects a daunting endeavor. Even when provided with more specific information, such as identifying a particular company to visit, it can be confusing, embarrassing, and intimidating simply because you may know the company, but not know the best person to talk to.

The good news is, when networking, anyone can be the “right one” who provides that certain opportunity or assistance that is advantageous to your goal. The secret is finding people with whom you connect with naturally. That’s why it’s important to practice networking consistently at every available opportunity. However, you can significantly improve your odds of finding the “jewels” by focusing on, first, just one person with whom you feel a natural connection. From there find out one person that connection admires and believes is a good connection. It’s better to go slowly and develop one great connection at a time than to rush the process.

3. Not knowing what to say
A lot of people dislike networking because they’re at a loss for words when they meet someone. Those who actually put forth the effort to attend events and meet people oftentimes have their momentum stopped abruptly by not knowing what to say once the initial introduction has occurred. Whether or not you’ve experienced such a moment, not knowing what to say when you meet a stranger can kill an otherwise great opportunity to open up a new relationship.

Many people may also be at a loss for words because they believe they need to begin with business talk when they first start to network. However, starting with a social connection where you recognize something more personal about an individual—such as a story they told that illuminated a passion they have, or even something as simple as complimenting them on their suit—can begin to build a business friendship.

There are also people who consider networking to be all about small talk. Through our research, we have found that many people look at networking as talking about things like the weather or, even simpler, questions about the quality of your current day. But as we’ll show you, searching for common connections takes your small talk to a deeper level.

Networking is more effective when you’re able to find not one, but multiple connections with someone. Maybe you grew up in the same town or had the same major in college. By digging deeper around our common connections (Melissa and I discovered we both had worked at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio, around the same time), we find other ones we didn’t realize we had.

We’ll share more about moving beyond small talk later, but for now, realize that most of us are prisoners of small talk and, as such, we’re not taking full advantage of all that a more significant conversation around connections can create.

4. Fearing rejection
People possess an instinctive desire to be accepted and the possibility of being rejected, demeaned, or isolated produces insecurities that can often cripple one’s ability to proceed with productive activities.

Those who fear rejection, yet are pressured to network, tend to stumble in their efforts because they turn to people they already know or are comfortable with to make their pitches. Even more aggressive networkers who suffer from this fear may thwart opportunities by cutting off relationships prematurely in an effort to avoid preconceived hurts before they occur. If fear of rejection is hurting your efforts, it helps to realize that the person you’re talking with may well be feeling the same thing.

It’s true that networking is heavily influenced by the desire of everyone involved to gain something advantageous. Whether you’re seeking a job lead, a new sales contact, a location to expand to, or any other target, it involves telling people what you want. This can make you feel vulnerable. Although some people are more refined in their networking approach, others can be aggressive. Many are put off by such behavior. They may feel that certain expectations are placed on them, whether real or imagined.

The business world tends to compound such pressures by constantly demanding more from those within its grasp. Well-meaning loved ones, teammates, and other armchair counselors may tell you that pressure makes you perform better. However, according to psychologists Hendrie Weisinger and J. P. Pawliw-Fry, pressure more commonly diminishes the effects of performance and often leads to utter failure. It’s far better to learn how to minimize pressure from all fronts, including the pressure you put on yourself, so you can be free to realize better success with networking.

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