And what to do about it!
If so, you’re in very good company!
Fear is a necessary part of life. Can you imagine what would have happened if our ancestors weren’t afraid of fire? Or cliffs? We might not be here! As children we were warned, “Don’t talk to strangers!” This helped ensure our survival. But fearing “strangers” (part of our aversion to networking) doesn’t serve us as adults—or help our businesses thrive.
How do you overcome fears? Don’t bother trying. Instead, identify them, accept them, and create solutions that will turn fears into exciting adventures. As Susan Jeffers says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
Below is a list of common networking fears that business coaches hear from their clients. Place a check mark near YOUR fears (or add your own).
- I’ll draw a blank and not know what to say.
- I’m not _(fill in the blank)_ (smart enough, successful enough, etc.)
- I’m too _(fill in the blank)_ (fat, skinny, ugly, etc.)
- It’s one thing to do introductions, but how do I maintain the conversation, keep it lively?
- I’m afraid I’ll sound pushy or alienate people.
- I feel phony and inauthentic.
- My feet hurt when I stand in heels too long.
- I’ll say something to “stick my foot in my mouth”.
- It’s impossible to break into established groups.
- I’m an introvert; I don’t have an “outgoing” personality.
- People drain me.
- I won’t have enough stamina to be “on” for the whole event.
- Networking is boring.
- Why go? It will be the SOS (Same Old Stuff).
- Strangers will think I’m manipulating them when they discover I’m looking for business.
- I’m not good at marketing.
- I don’t like to talk about myself.
- It scares the living daylights out of me!
Our fears do protect us; however, they can also hurt us by keeping us stuck. What’s interesting about your networking fears is that they’re not just about networking. They’re the same fears you have in other areas of your life. If you think about it, you may have chosen your career in massage because you enjoy the relative solitude and can avoid the bustle of business-y meetings.
“The difference between fear and excitement is …breathing!” –Author Unknown
A recent Carnegie study showed that 85% of a person’s career success depends upon his or her ability to effectively relate to and interact with other people. So, what can you do if the thought of networking sends chills down your spine?
Networking Despite Your Fears
Luckily, most of us are able to discover many benefits that make networking worthwhile—and not so scary.
At its core, networking is about creating relationships. You need to genuinely connect with the person to whom you’re talking. Well, isn’t that sounding less scary? Haven’t you already mastered that with your current clients?
In fact, according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, the definition of networking is: “To interact or engage in informal communication with others for mutual assistance or support.” Ah ha, you’re good at that, too.
Networking 101: Relationship Building
If you don’t like the term “networking,” think about it this way: it’s about listening and THEN sharing your expertise—and referrals, too. Just like any relationship, developing a good business contact takes more than one meeting. Think of networking as an activity that—over time—builds long-term, strategic partnerships. You don’t “do” networking; you enjoy it as a part of who you are.
Did you know that every person you meet knows at least 100 other people? And each of them knows 100 people. So, when you meet one person, you’re really meeting everyone they know, too. People conduct business with people they know and trust.
“The truth is you can get more new clients faster by networking than any other marketing method.” — C J Haden, author of Get More Clients Now
You may have noticed that business occurs in cycles, up and down. Don’t get lazy about marketing when you’re busy or rely on word of mouth exclusively. You must cultivate relationships to secure future clients, because you never know who will become a client—or when. A consistent flow of clients begins with networking.
Whether you’ve moved to a new city, just started a business, or want to grow your existing business, building a community with lots of connections is essential for your personal and business evolution. Remember that networking isn’t about instant gratification—it’s about long-term success. Relationships—business and personal—take time to develop.
Massage therapists have an additional reason to network. In your business, you expend a lot of physical and mental energy. If you don’t venture beyond your four walls, isolation and its long-term effects—including depression—may set in. Still not convinced about the rewards of networking? Many associations offer group rates to their members for health and liability insurance and other services.
Once you decide networking is nothing to be afraid of, you’ll use it effectively to grow your business. And of course the more people you meet, the less strangers you’ll find.
© 2002, updated 2011 Elevating Your Business. An unstoppable entrepreneur, Maria Marsala is a strategic business coach, speaker, and author of eight workbooks geared toward helping accountants and financial advisors grow their businesses to serve their lives — not the other way around. Visit www.ElevatingYourBusiness.comto learn more. While there, sign up for Focus! Ezine, a newsletter jam-packed with Maria’s singular brand of tips, tricks, and priceless strategic business advice.
With special thanks to Christine Mifsud, of WordPower Marketing who updated, no she rewrote this article, for me.