I’m not a good networker. By nature, I’m not someone who engages easily in social chatter.
I really have to work hard at it. I mean REALLY hard.
When I’m in large groups of people my first reaction is to get a glass of wine and hang out on the edges until I see someone I know. I understand that defeats the purpose of networking or making new friends, so I try to push myself to come out of that zone. Except that I’m never really sure what to say, afraid that I’ll ask something silly or say something stupid. How do I know what other people want to talk about?
Given my druthers, I’ll just hang out and listen to what everyone else has to say, only rarely chiming in with a comment. Or maybe I’ll just come up with an excuse not to attend an event.
To say I really had to push the edge of my comfort zone when I went to BlogHer would be an understatement. Even though I was terribly excited to attend, the thought of being at an event with 800 people where I knew virtually no one terrified me. Fortunately, I met a few more people and then I felt better, but still had the lingering doubts of not being interesting enough or fun enough or smart enough.
I recently found out that I have more company on that score than I thought.
Last week columnist Connie Schultz was the guest speaker at a local news women’s club I belong to. Actually, she came because I had one of those pushing myself to the limit moments last year when I met her at a writer’s conference and asked if she’d be willing to be our guest sometime. To my amazement, she said yes.
So, I was introducing her to people on the evening of the event. With each person she met, after learning their name she said, “So, tell me a little about yourself.”
I was amazed. What an easy little question. It will always start a conversation. Even if you didn’t read the newspaper that day or you’re not up on the latest Must See TV, you still have a topic of discussion. Then I realized that almost everyone seemed uncomfortable with that little query.
I asked Connie about it. Turns out it was her coping technique when she was on the campaign trail with her husband, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, out of her comfort zone. It’s how she managed being with people she didn’t know day after day after day.
Even more fascinating was what she learned by asking voters and supporters that question thousands of times over, which shed some light on the uneasiness I saw that night in the faces of the those who were trying to respond.
“Women don’t like to talk about themselves.”
And when they do, she said, they act as though what they are is not important. She said one time a woman responded to her question with, “Oh, I’m just a doctor.”
And here I thought I was the only one with the insecurities.