Sometimes the icky part of networking is the people we meet

“The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” – Charles Bukowski

One of the kick-off exercises I ask people to do in my networking skills workshop is to put the elephant on the table and share what they don’t like about networking.

Every single time I hear:

“Getting stuck with someone who is boring”

“Those people that only ever talk about themselves”

“That clinger that doesn’t leave you alone”

“Being sold to and talked at”

And of course there’s always the, “I’m worried about being interesting and what to say”.

The overwhelm of networking, of where to begin and where to go is often superseded by the worry of the potential ickiness of the people you may meet.  It’s certainly clear from the amount of networking I’ve done over the years that not everyone approaches networking with a ‘WE’ mentality of intent and purpose.

This got me thinking about the four types of networkers that you may come across.

Let’s start with the not so good…

The Bragger lives and breathes ‘Me, Me, Me’. They are obsessed with themselves, their achievements, how awesome they are and how their company is ‘nailing it’.   Like the overpaid Instagrammer, or soccer star, it’s all about external validation and their fabulousness – of course. Conversation is superficial and shallow.  ‘Why wouldn’t you want to know me?’ is the unconscious thought of the Bragger. Appear to be listening and they are happy.  And guess what? You don’t even need to show you’re impressed because, let’s be real, they are already blowing their own trumpet (and its’ supporting brass band) loud enough.

How to manage the Bragger: Bluntness does not offend the Bragger.  If you manage to get a word in edgeways, simply say ‘lovely to meet you’ and walk away.  If there is no break in the monologue just leave because they will very quickly move on to the next person with no worry about you.

The Chaser lives and breathes ‘What’s in it for me’.  Like Axel Rod from Netflix’s ‘Billions’ or the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ type, the Chaser is focused on you for what you can give them – is it Business? Another lead? Clients? Referrals? Insider information? They will appear interested in you, asking questions and agreeing with most of what you say, if not all.  But be warned – they are looking for the weak spot, the gap that only they can close with what they can do for you or how they can use the information you have given them. They will zig and zag, they will pivot and change, they will be strategic in their conversation with the sole purpose of ultimately getting what they want first.  The Chaser will link in with you, enter you into their sales funnel and sell to you way after the initial shaking of hands and ‘nice to meet you’. And if you can’t give them what they want, the likelihood is you will find the Chaser rubbernecking, looking for the next most important person or potential piece of business in the room.

How to manage the Chaser: Get curious and switch on your intuition smarts.  If you start to feel like you are standing opposite a dodgy car salesman from the ‘70s, switch on that confidence and say, ‘Thank you but I’m not interested’ and divert the conversation away from business to something trivial and off topic.  Try throwing in something about the TV show you watched last night, the speaker you’ve just heard or the canapé you are eating. They will soon get the message and turn to the next person.

Let’s be honest, the Hider doesn’t really want to be in the room, in fact, they want to disappear. And if there are hundreds of people at the event, cue the opening credits of their worst nightmare.  Like a wallflower, the Hider may come across as shy and anxious; they may be quiet in their demeanour or even monotone in their conversation. They may even have that limp handshake, that closed-off body language.  The Hider fundamentally doesn’t want the limelight or to ‘work the room’. They may try and distance themselves from the loudest in the room or the bigger crowds and at worse cling to you as the person they have been brave enough to speak to.  There is no doubt the Hider will have value to add to the conversation – they wouldn’t be there if not – the challenge is to encourage and create that conversation.

How to manage the Hider: The key word here is compassion.  Encourage conversation by asking them gentle and somewhat generic questions such as, “Where do you work?”, “What do you do?”, “What do you enjoy about your job?”.  Share openly why you are at the event and what you are hoping to get from it. Explore if they feel the same. Give the conversation time. Listen carefully; make eye contact and smile.  Try and engage other people in to your conversation, introduce the Hider and when the time is right to move on suggest moving to another group, make the introduction again and then move on.

And the one we all want to be or meet…

The Connector is first and foremost interested in you and how they can help you.  They are powerful brokers of information and people, joining dots you can’t see.  They want to understand who you are, what you do and what you are trying to achieve because, in their heads, they will be slicing and dicing at intense speed their existing knowledge and contact base with the primary aim of connecting you to someone or something that will create an opportunity for you to fast-track your dreams. A conversation will be engaging and interesting, they will be fully present and focused on you exploring all the time how they can help and be of service to you. They see first what’s in it for you and second, or at all, what’s in it for them.

How to manage the Connector: If you are lucky enough to find a Connector, full disclosure is the key. Share unconditionally. Be brave enough to ask for help and to share your challenges. Be courageous enough to open up about your dreams of success and what you are trying to achieve. The Connector will listen deeply, hold your full disclosure in confidence and deliver on their promises of connections and insight – because fundamentally they care about your success first. But be warned – if you don’t follow through, deliver on your promises or operate from a place of ‘take, take, take’, they won’t be part of your network into the long term.

What strategies can you put in place to ensure you build quality connections every day as opposed to the negative icky ones?

Why not get curious about how you network and choose to become the Connector.

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