This is Me Trying Not To Suck at Small Talk and Networking
You know what, I really suck at networking so I find ways to avoid it. When I am out alone, I try not to participate in small talk with strangers because I almost always say something half-assed backwards. So, I keep my head low and try hard not to be noticed. However, I realize that networking is vital to my endeavors both personally and professionally. I have scoured the internet for years for the right strategies. A majority of them spoke from the extravert perspective for people who are trying to overcome a level of shyness. Even still, I feel like I've tried every one of them. Epic fail and here is why.
I am super awkward when talking with new people
I’m not shy (well not that shy). For me, it’s more of an issue with taking the intelligent speech that’s in my head and communicating it out of my mouth. I am hands down, a better writer than a conversationalist because of the time it affords me to put my thoughts together. Case in point, last year I had an opportunity to meet with the owner of a consignment shop. She was asking my friend and I if we needed help around the store to which my reply was no. So I went about my business of “window shopping.” My friend on the other hand needed help with something and that lead to a series of conversations between them. In one of those bits of small talk, I learned the owner was in the market for a new website. My friend knew I could help her so she told her about what I do for a living. Rather than contribute immediately to what was going on, my mind drifted as I continued checking out the items on display. I began overthinking about how I could solve her problems through both my photography business and marketing company. I completely tuned them out because of this exciting internal dialogue going on of me potentially gaining a new client. I had a fantastic pitch ready to go but what did I do instead? I ruined the moment. First, I let her know how cute a handbag was and said some other irrelevant bullshit. Then not to be outdone, I followed that up with a “hey, here is my business card we should talk about...” long after the owner changed the conversation, making my gesture completely out of time, inappropriate, and AWKWARD!
That interaction still screws with my head.
Another incident happened at a local park while making photographs of my tiny humans, when a couple of kids started playing with them. Their mother was a friendly woman and struck up a conversation with me about the town and school happenings. She mentioned how great our kids were getting along with each other and asked where in town did we live. Not being specific and cautious, I gave her the “oh not far from here” short and sweet answer. I guess my response, matched with my body language, lead her to not probe further. The conversation continued to get more awkward but we both hung in there. Finally it was time to part ways and we extended the mutual departing salutation, “have a great day” and for extra measure I sprinkled in “I'll see ya at the park again soon.” I wish that whole experience played out differently where I would have instead asked to exchange information, or better yet, make the actual plans to see them at the park again soon. I didn't even get her name and she was a very nice woman.
I never saw her or her tiny humans again.
So back to scrolling the internet for best strategies on how an introvert with social awkwardness can prevent making a complete ass of herself. I know I am not alone in this and knew there’d be insightful research already in place to answer my questions. I did a search on Google for introvert conversation starters and I got some good shit out of it. However, I want to share my opinion on the most prominent article, The Introvert’s Definitive Guide to Networking, that resonated the most with me.
In the article, you’ll find a few methods in helping you gain more intel about a person through small talk. You know the kind where if you’re on line at the supermarket and someone comments to you about the weather? My usual response is to either smile and nod or say some jumbled shit that doesn’t quite have to do with the weather like “yeah right it’s chilly in the produce aisle.” I think the exercises in this article will help me not be so clumsy with words and the best part for me is they’re doable in the sense that I can start with one person. The article suggests starting with 5 strangers but no...I won’t LOL. One will be enough for me (maybe two even) but if you want to do five or more, then go for it and let me know how that works out. Either way, there is some useful tips that’s worth a shot at trying.
I intend to work on these strategies at the first available opportunity and with school aged tiny humans, I will have plenty of chances to not fuck this up. The goal for me is to be able to authentically engage and connect on deeper levels with people rather than get by unfulfilled on the shallowness of basic small talk. Hopefully the next time a nice woman with kids strikes up a conversation with me or presented with a business opportunity, I will be well prepared in holding my own in in-depth small talk conversation.
I'm putting it out there for the universe that I will forge new relationships that are mutually meaningful and enduring.
I'll be back to let you know how I did with this. I'm already over thinking this process, will need a cocktail, and definitely some extra time included in my downtime schedule. But I am committed to doing this for me, my family, and businesses. Perhaps you’ll have some success with these methods too.
Let me know how it works out.
sherrie LANELL (click here to learn more about me)