Here at Women in the City we’re very proud of our events and how we bring people together from many sectors for excellent networking opportunities. Our Annual Symposium is coming up and we’re looking forward to welcoming new people into the Women in the City fold. But what if networking is something that makes you a bit nervous? We asked Karen Pollock, our expert at hand for some tips for tackling networking anxieties…
In my previous article I wrote about courage. About that moment when, after assessing the risks, and the skills that you have, you step forward, just as Grace Darling did. It seemed to strike a chord with many women. Since it came out a few have approached me, and asked what about the smaller, everyday, moments where you don’t feel like Grace, but still need courage?
A repeated refrain has been around networking events. Everyone knows they are beneficial, and so long as you don’t fall on your face into the canapes, they don’t carry many risks. So how do you deal with the churning stomach and fear that can make a simple conversation feel like the most difficult thing ever?
Humans are social animals, people sometimes imagine this means we are natural socialisers. It’s more complicated than that. We evolved to be constantly watching the rest of the group, looking for threats, as well as doing the social bonding we now call networking. Professor Steve Peters, who has worked with Olympic athletes and Premier League football clubs among others, explores this paradox of our “chimp” heritage in a modern setting. The chimp within our brain is the part which creates the anxiety, the worry something will go wrong, the fear of attack in social settings.
The good news is that we are not still chimps, we also have our human, or what I like to call adult side, who, once it is aware of the source of our anxieties, can take control. However in order to do this we need to follow a few simple steps;
Acknowledge how you feel.
It’s very common to try to ignore anxiety and nerves, to push them away. The problem with this approach is they are most likely to come out when we least want them too. Before an event take some time to acknowledge how you feel, accept that it’s OK, be kind to yourself.
Use the “rational worry box”.
When working with clients we often divide things into the rational and irrational worry boxes. Some things are a legitimate worry, the good thing is, these are the ones which can be most easily tackled. Into the rational worry box might go anxieties such as forgetting names, drinking too much, logistics such at getting there on time and home afterwards and office politics. All of these things can be dealt with by advance planning and setting strict boundaries in place (for example, sticking to orange juice, or rehearsing how to politely avoid sticky topics)
Allow the adult out.
Adults are rational, make decisions based on facts not emotions, can cope with minor slights, or the bad opinion of others, since they know not everyone will like them. At networking events letting the adult do the talking makes a lot of sense. This is much easier if you have acknowledged the anxieties and dealt with all the contents of the rational worries box
By taking the time to acknowledge your worries, sorting out which are rational, and can be dealt with, and trying as much as possible to stay in “adult” unemotional mode, you may find networking events are a lot less daunting in the future.
Karen Pollock MBACP is an experienced, down to earth therapist, passionate about demistifying counseling and working with people to be their best possible selves. She can be contacted via her website, and she is also a keen Twitter user (@CounsellingKaz) and Archers fan. She’ll also be attending our Symposium on 9 June so make sure you say hello!
Tickets are still available for our symposium via this link