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This little fella is why you’re nervous at networking!

If you are a ‘normal’ person, walking into a business event on your own can often be daunting. I know I don’t like walking in when the room is in full flow so I always get there early. Most people I work with tell me their major fears and concerns are

·      Fear of rejection. Will anyone talk to me?

·      Will I be interesting? Yes, you will when you show genuine interest in others

·      What happens if I don’t know. That’s simple. Ask them to explain what they mean. That way you are showing interest and pleasing them by saying they know more about the subject than you do.

I wish was so clever to have done this research to create this article. I’m not; it is based on serious scientific research by Professor Steve Peters from his best-seller “The Chimp Paradox”

He states there are 3 main sections of our brain. The frontal brain, the limbic brain and the parietal brain but because he wants to make the subject understandable for the lay-person he calls them the human brain, the chimp brain and the computer brain.

The chimp brain is dominant causing us to think emotionally and irrationally in the first instance. So, we walk into that room with those fears I have listed above. (Not exhaustive by any means). The human brain is rational working with facts but often overridden by the chimp. The computer brain is a source of memories and previous learnings

We can’t make the chimp powerless because emotion is more powerful than reason, so we need to find ways to deal with this conflict. Let the chimp brain release its emotions then you can reflect and reason with it.

But you can stop the chimp brain from acting on them. This is where preparation and planning comes in before attending events. It’s easy to plan your route, get a guest list, know the timings and what the event is about. But it’s the mental preparation which is needed just as much.

When you analyse the situations’ potential outcome in advance you can often bring the computer brain into action before the chimp starts its wicked ways! This planning gives the power back to your rational human brain by using our powerful memory stage of our computer brain

Start a conversation on your way to your event

·      When was the last time you approached someone at an event, smiled, introduced yourself and asked the first question and they walked off?! Never probably and it’s unlikely to ever happen

·      Remember you are a nice person who is going to be friendly and accepted

·      Take it from me ( I know )most people are nervous

·      You’ve as much right as anyone to be there even though others may be more senior and experienced than you.

·      Accept there will be a tiny percentage who may decide you’re not valuable or important enough and they start looking around. Simply excuse yourself and find polite and friendly people which make up the clear majority

·      Reflect on a previous event where hopefully you had a good time and created some possible business opportunities

In the first instance go with the flow and accept the chimp is in charge at the start.

Steve Peters uses the 2nd way of managing the chimp by ‘boxing’ it! We need to reflect and reason and realise nothing terrible is going happen. After all networking is just talking! I think it’s just the ‘N’ word which creates the chimp to take control.

Another way to take control Professor Peters says is by “rewarding” it. Telling yourself that when you’ve spoken to a few people ( find someone on their own; they are just as if not more nervous than you! and start chatting) you will start to relax and may even spot some potential business opportunity. After all, that why you went networking.

Confidence can often be based on two separate factors. Either on your perception of your ability or thinking ‘I’ll just do my best’. If you go with the first one you may not be able to deal with the consequences if you don’t achieve your goals. In both cases there is no guarantee you will achieve anything. If you base your assessment of success on your ability the chimp will hijack your thinking and you will constantly wonder about the likelihood of failure. But if you choose to base your confidence on doing your best then you keep full control. In fact I want you to be in ‘command and control’ when working the room.

There is always a choice and the one you make and the way you deal with the networking situation will determine your happiness and success.

You cannot stop the chimp from jumping at a situation and making assumptions. You may have heard the acronym F E A R false expectations appearing real where we often make assumptions.


Blog by Will…


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