Nervous about meeting influential people? Try this.
As I’m preparing to go to a new networking event in the City I’m feeling daunted; this group is for senior executive women and entrepreneurs who are serious about their personal development. Whilst I recognise that I have been on a major development journey since taking the leap to become self-employed, this event is further outside my comfort zone than I’m used to and so my gremlins of fear and doubt are rousing.
I’m mindful of what I am telling myself about what I’m going to wear, how I’m going to come across, what people will think? I’m scared I’m going to feel self-conscious and out of place. Essentially this is an old, well-worn story which boils down to ‘am I good enough?’ and the need for outside approval.
Which has got me thinking; whether our meeting is for a job interview, a first date with a potential romantic partner, or a new networking event, if we are not careful we can get SO caught up in our heads about ‘how to come across to people and act a certain way’ that before we know it we are hugely anxious around what is essentially a process of simply talking to other human beings.
We then potentially sabotage the very relationships that we want to build. So how do we overcome this?
A matter of perspective
From my experience as a coach I am aware that there are more perspectives available to us in relationships.
In a level 1 perspective we get caught up thinking purely about ourselves, becoming preoccupied with thoughts like: ‘how do I look? How am I coming across to others?’. Our focus is inward, and self-directed – but this is not likely to prove very effective, let alone attractive, to the other person who we are trying to form a personal or professional relationship with.
In a level 2 perspective, by contrast, we begin to broaden our focus to become aware of the other person – their wants, needs and desires. But if we stay stuck in the level 1 stories in our head about ‘us’ and our need to perform well we miss this perspective and so remain crucially unaware that the person in front of us has needs to be met as well. The interviewer needs a role to be filled and the potential romantic or business partner will have their own particular wants, needs and desires.
The key to really shifting our anxiety, and our perspective, in forming new relationships is to be curious.
When we allow ourselves to ‘just get curious’ about the human being in front of us we might find much of our anxiety melting away. We can become much more open to learning about them, finding out about who they are, listening to their experience.
Curiosity enables our encounters to become playful. From this perspective, there is no ‘right or wrong’ there is just another human being with their unique experience and viewpoint on the world. And who knows, we might actually find the other person to be rather fascinating, or surprising, or amusing.
In this way curiosity gives us blessed relief at not being trapped in repetitive thoughts about ourselves all the time. Because it’s simply not possible to worry about ourselves, our problems and agendas and the image we are constantly trying to project to others, when we are deeply engaged in learning about that other person’s human experience, perspective or essence.
So for me as I face my fears of the unknown with this new networking group I am reminding myself of the power of curiosity and shifting my own perspective to be open to explore other women’s world and how I can help them. This taps into my value of being of service and making a difference and translates any remaining nerves I still feel into a sense of adventure and excitement at what I am about to discover.
Over to you
In what situations do you find yourself getting caught up in your own stories around how you are coming across to others? What happens to your experience when you shift to being just curious about the other person instead? I’d love to hear from you.
Need more help to shift your perspective?
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