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Networking. Small talk. Approaching complete strangers and striking up conversations.

Feel uncomfortable yet?

You’re probably not the only one. As the economy reopens with the decrease of coronavirus cases, companies are welcoming their employees back to offices, the hospitality sector is adding jobs, and inevitably, networking will be back.

For some, just the word “networking” can trigger a bit of anxiety. One study found that the notion of networking leaves people feeling physically dirty and morally impure. Yikes.

So, what’s the deal? Is networking itself an icky pursuit…or are our perceptions of networking simply inaccurate? We lean towards the latter. Networking is an absolutely key part of growing your business!

Here are five quotes to help you understand the true nature of networking and to kick your fear to the curb, once and for all.

Fear # 1: I’ll run out of things to say.

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot. Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers.” –Guy Kawasaki

Probably the number one misconception of networking is that the end goal is to sell. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself. If you can show genuine interest in another human being, you’ve won half the battle. So flex your listening skills, build others up and maybe even walk away with a few new friends.

Fear # 2: I’m introverted and people drain me.

“If your business comes from relationships, relationships should be your business.” –Doug Ales

Hate to break it to you, but almost all business is reliant on connecting with other people. 95% say face-to-face meetings are essential for establishing long-term business relationships.

Does that mean you have to be surrounded by people 24/7? No. But it does mean that you have to put yourself out there sometimes. So go for it.

Fear # 3: I’ll say something dumb.

“If you want to go somewhere, it is best to find someone who has already been there.” –Robert Kiyosaki

News flash—networking isn’t about having all the answers. You’re there to discover and explore new possibilities. More than likely, the majority of people in the room have the same questions you do. Rather than stressing yourself out trying to be the expert, show some humility and allow someone else to be the authority.

Fear # 4: I don’t want to come across as selfish.

“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.” –Keith Ferrazzi

Networking is not a self-serving promotional campaign. Rather than solely focusing on what you have to gain, think about all you have to offer. There is someone in the room who could greatly benefit from the service, product or solution you are offering. Period.

Fear # 5: I’ll get bored.

“Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities. –Michele Jennae

Here’s the good news—networking doesn’t have to be all about sparking small talk. If you’re at a great networking event, the focus should be on connecting YOU with new ideas.

Networking doesn’t have to be scary. By changing the way you perceive networking, you can change the way you approach it to embrace your inner networking champion.

This article was first published in 2018 and has been updated for relevancy by the editor.

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