You’re at a networking event.
The grazing board is a hit.
The conversation is flowing.
The buzz is buzzing.
And in walks… her.
Oh you know exactly who I’m talking about.
She’s got sass.
She’s got style.
She’s got her $hit together.
Is she even human?
OMG! And she’s walking over to your group!!!
“Hello! My name is Natasha. I thought I’d come over and introduce myself”.
Dear God and she’s confident too.
The question here is: How do they do it? They look so calm, cool and collected, while your heart is beating out of your chest, your palms are pouring sweat, your anxious ability to speak is comparable to a three-year old and you’re wasting precious time coming up with an exit plan.
The Brain-Body Connection
As someone with a background in human physiology, I am privileged to have learned about the unique connection between the body and brain. But as a former recluse, I also understand how we can easily blame ourselves for not being more like Natasha.
The trick is to find the balance by better understanding the inseparable connection between the body and brain. Effectively, we need to hack our nervous system so we can override those unwanted (and embarrassing) reactions to innocuous situations - allowing us to breathe calmly and speak smartly.
But… and this is a BIG BUT…
The road to self-awareness is a long one, and we need to pay bills. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or the money to pull 12 months of ‘eat, pray, love’ out of our hat to get our shit together.
As such, we need a positive but realistic plan of attack to get through life’s challenges with a winner’s mindset.
My tool for this is called a positive pre-mortem. Effectively what we’re doing is hoping for the best, but planning for when things don’t go our way.
Why is this important (and darn useful)?
Heart racing, palms sweating and a racing mind indicates that your body is under stress. During this state, MRI studies have shown that there is reduced blood flow to the part of our brain that is more logical. Meaning, when we’re stressed - we’re about as cognitively logical as a hungry, tired toddler.
Having a Positive Pre-Mortem plan provides us with an exit plan without an exit - so we can push through the discomfort of doing and extract more benefits from innocuous situations.
Start your Positive Pre-Mortem with the following statement:
If ___(that happens), then _____ (I’ll do this)
1. If I’m asked to introduce myself, I’ll have my introduction practiced and prepared.
Practice your introduction before arriving, and keep it short and sharp. If you do something really vague, can you simplify it so people will understand it? Ask yourself, what would you like to know about the other people in your group? As an example, I remember once someone introduced themselves like this “I fix broken buildings”. I’m sure what he does is a LOT more complicated than that!
2. If I find myself rambling, then I’ll ask a question.
Be a generous conversationalist. If you find yourself taking over the conversation, figure out a way to turn what you’re saying into a question for the group. For example, when I’m talking about how to reframe hard conversations within the workplace, I’ll ask others for their experiences: has this ever happened to you? At the end of the day, even though it’s called a networking event, it’s also a place to learn and up-skill through the eyes of others.
3. If I’m introduced to someone, then I’ll make a movie star connection.
Concentrate. When someone tells you their name and what they do, don’t worry about what you’re going to say back to them, but rather try and remember what they’ve said, at the very least, their name. The first thing I do is associate their name with a character from a movie or someone famous. For example, if I meet someone named Chris - I instantly mark him as Chris Hemsworth (trust me in saying that I will NEVER forget his name.) The next thing I do is not only repeat their name, but also what they do. For example, “Hi Chris, so you’re a lawyer, what kind of law do you practice?”. Remembering someone’s name shows them that you actually care about what they do, not just about what you do.
4. If I find myself feeling small and insignificant, then I’ll remind myself to stay grounded and not puff up.
Be you, not who you want to be. It’s super easy to get caught up with the ‘successful’ crowd and try and fit in, boasting about or even inflating what you’ve done and what you want to do. Indeed the most inspiring and confident people I’ve met are those that are gracious with their time at the mic, and most importantly, are comfortable admitting their failures.
5. If I want to impress someone, then I’ll only say things from the heart.
Compliment, but don’t suck up to people. There is nothing wrong with wanting people to like you, but you don’t need to suck up to people to try and accomplish this. You simply can’t force connections, especially when it comes to business. Summary? It’s simple: say what you mean and mean what you say.
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Dr Katherine xoxoxo