How to overcome the fear of networking
Some people feel they are too busy to network. That’s fantastic if your business is growing like a weed and you are making profitable sales. But what if it’s not? What if you start to lose clients through natural attrition? How will you keep the top of your sales funnel full?
Does this sound like you?
- I hate networking….
- I don’t like talking to people I don’t know…..
- I’m an introvert and not very good at….
- I don’t know what to say….
- I tried networking once, collected heaps of business cards and no one called me back….
Sometimes being too busy to network and prospect for new business is another excuse for…. FEAR
When we perceive a threat, real or imagined, the body gets ready to fight or flee from danger. Think of fear as an automatic alarm that switches on the moment we sense danger. The body goes through a whole series of changes. The heart beats faster, you start to sweat, your breathing rate increases as a response to the danger you are confronted with.
This alarm system is essential to our survival and it’s called the fight or flight response. Sometimes it’s possible to have this same response even if there is no danger. It’s a false alarm that you may experience when the words “networking, prospecting and cold calling” are mentioned.
False Evidence Appearing Real
Let me share a story with you of how FEAR can be False Evidence Appearing Real!
In a small village in India, a villager had been visiting a sick neighbor several miles away. Returning home late at night he was walking down a very dark and unlit road. As the man made his way along the road he was already very frightened for this area was known to be visited by dangerous and deadly snakes. “What if I encounter a snake?” he worried, trembling at the thought of running into a snake.
Suddenly the man noticed something large and thick coiled up in the middle of the road.
“It’s a snake!” he cried aloud, as he began to scream and run in circles. “Help! Help! Someone come quickly! Help a snake is about to kill me!” Another villager was travelling on the same road that night when he heard the commotion. He quickly ran towards the sound of the shouting where he saw the other villager in distress.
“What’s the matter my friend?” he asked.
“Look! Look!” shrieked the first villager pointing a shaking finger at the coiled-up serpent. “It’s a snake! It’s a snake!” The second villager was carrying a lamp and he cautiously approached the shadow in the road, held up the light and looked more closely. There before him, he saw a coil of thick black rope that someone had mistakenly dropped on the road.
“My friend, calm yourself,” the villager said. “There is no snake on the road – it’s only a coiled up rope. Fear has made your mind play a trick on you.”
Let’s treat FEAR for what it really is… False Evidence Appearing Real!
Fear of networking is irrational
Fundamentally, we respond to external stimuli in two ways, rationally or emotionally. The emotional brain responds far quicker than the rational mind because it usually takes our rational brain a moment or two longer to respond than the emotional brain. Our first impulse when we hear the words prospecting, cold calling or networking is to respond emotionally rather than rationally. In other words, we respond with the heart first and not the head.
To understand why this is, it helps to recognize what happens to us when we go into fight or flight mode.
Simplistically our amazing brain is made up of three parts; the Neo Cortex, the Limbic System and the Reptilian System.
The neo cortex is the intelligence part of our brain. It’s where the thinking, planning, problem solving and patterns of recognition take place. It’s involved in higher functions such as sensory perception, spatial reasoning, conscious thought and language.
The neo-cortex allows us to logically assess if we are in danger. However, when we experience fear, we are not using the logical part of our brain, we sense fear from the emotional part of our brain. Fear triggers an emotional response through the amygdala, which then tells the reptilian system to kick in which is when we move into fight, flight or freeze mode.
At the base of our brain is the reptilian system, which is responsible for our survival. It regulates our heart rate, oxygen, blood pressure and reproduction among many others.
The reptilian system also controls our breathing, digestion, circulation and temperature. It also acts like a bodyguard on the lookout for potential threats and decides whether we freeze or move into fight or flight mode. The thinking part of our brain is too slow to make this judgement.
When we feel threatened, the amygdala causes adrenaline and nora-adrenaline and cortisol to flood the body as a reaction to the fear we feel. The blood thickens and is channelled to the major organs and muscles groups. This reaction increases our breathing and heart rate so more blood is pumped to the major muscles so we can either quickly run away from the threat or fight back. It’s an inbuilt fight or flight mechanism, which occurs without us thinking about it.
Fear occurs in us as a response to something we perceive as being threatening, dangerous or harmful like prospecting, cold calling and networking. It can make us feel nervous, anxious or interfere with your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. It’s also a necessary emotion to have because the main purpose of fear is to alert us to a very real danger. We need to feel fear to keep us from danger and it acts the same even if it’s perceived danger like meeting new people and having to talk to them. We fear rejection. We fear not being liked. We fear not knowing what to say.
So when we are presented with a threat, real or imagined, our flight or fight response is automatically triggered to protect us.
The Limbic System
The limbic system controls our emotions. It’s the automatic nervous system where we experience pain, pleasure, hunger, thirst, sexuality and motivation. The amygdala, a small almond shaped mass located in the limbic system is involved in the processing of emotions such as fear, anger and pleasure.
The amygdala is also involved in determining what memories are stored in our brain and where they are stored like the memories we have from our formative years. If growing up we felt like no one liked us, felt inadequate or not good at something or even experienced rejection, we store this memory which comes back to us when we are put in a position where we have to meet new people.
Our emotions are far more powerful than our intellect. The emotional part of our brain is designed to help us survive in emergencies. The limbic system alerts us if danger is present. The Amygdala is our pre-warning system and is always on the lookout for threats. If it perceives a threat triggered by fear, real or imagined, it sends a signal to other parts of our brain to respond offering an immediate plan for action.
All information to the brain comes through your senses and when this information is overwhelmingly stressful or emotional; the amygdala sends out an automatic fight, fight or freeze response. If in our formative years we learned to fear failure, fear loss of love or friendship, fear making a mistake because of constant criticism, we react emotionally to similar situations as adults.
Overcoming the FEAR of networking
By learning to control the emotional part of your brain as well as use the rational brain when it comes to activities like prospecting, cold calling and networking, you’ll help build your confidence in growing your business. In other words – networking is a skill that can be learned regardless of previous negative experiences.
- Firstly develop a networking strategy so you target the right events
- Networking does not always have to be face-to-face. You can engage in network activities on-line
- Learn how to work the room at networking events
- Don’t look to push your products and services through an online presence, make sure you add value to your audience so you don’t turn them away
Once you overcome the fear of networking you will discover the many benefits networking offers such as:
- You don’t have to advertise as much as networking is cost effective
- You make meaningful connections and receive referral business
- You get to tap into other people’s networks to grow your own network
- You get to raise your personal and business profile
- You get to tap into the expertise of others
- You get to build your confidence levels
- You get to become a person that others want to get to know
On a Final Note
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