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Networking. It occurs for each of us differently, but for many it is a chore, a bore, and a tor...ture. We do better holding up the wall at a party than introducing ourselves around, would rather be home in our PJs with the remote control than at anything called a "mixer," and once there we stare at our watch repeatedly to decide when it is acceptable to bid a hasty retreat and still feel like we get credit for making an appearance.

Rarely is someone forcing us to connect with others, but we know it is a good thing. We have enough life experience stacked up to recognize that it is relationships that bring about new opportunities, not resumés. Whether purely for social connection or professional enhancement and advancement, getting out and rubbing elbows with others needs to happen.

GETS to happen. Re-framing that right off the bat is a good start. Our brains can be pretty mean to us, driving us to imagine worst-case scenarios. We assume the people at tonight's gathering will be exact replicas of the kids who picked us last for kickball or laughed when we tripped on an untied shoelace. This new roomful of folks is actually not inclined to look for weakness. They are coming from exactly the same place, hoping against hope that the effort to get out and get into this group setting will yield a new best friend or business lead or family to travel with or romantic spark or maybe just a great recipe for an hors d'oeuvre. The swag and ease with which they parade around the room, tittering politely at the right times, firmly shaking the correct hands for just long enough, remembering names...that's just practice. They might have done this a time or two more often than you, or more recently. If you just hold your nose and jump into the deep end and paddle, paddle, paddle, you'll be swimming in the social pool like an expert very soon. Social grace is a muscle that responds and grows quite quickly with just a little bit of exercise, and atrophies just as quickly when we get out of practice...but then grows again.

It can be hard to remember--but try to remind yourself--they truly DO want to meet you, they just don't know it yet, and it is you, being generous with yourself, that lets them know how very very much they want to be connected to you.

Accept that invitation. RSVP to the party. Show up. That's truly all that is required—you have to put yourself in magic's path.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation (AARBF.org) and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project (mentorartists.org). Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at www.ChangeByDoing.com. As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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