11 Things That Undermine Your Networking Efforts

by Paul Castain on June 12, 2013

1)    Engage in an overabundance of either “me” centered comments and/or self promo. Instead, show a genuine interest in the other person. Get them talking about their favorite subject. Hint: It’s not you and your company!

2)    Make it evident that you are looking around the room for someone else to talk to. This is by far one of the rudest things I’ve witnessed (and have heard about from others). Better to give the other person your undivided attention. Everyone has a story and wants to be heard. We are living in a world where it’s very easy for us all to get lost in the noise. How cool is it when you get the gift of someone’s undivided attention. Scratch that. Better question . . . how rare is that?

3)    Engaging in “Clinger” type activities. This is when you don’t take the hint that the other person is trying to respectfully wind down the conversation. And let’s face it, if you do “cling” to someone, it’s not because you are a bad person, it’s because they are “safe”. In other words you most probably feel it’s better to keep talking to someone who has accepted you than working the room. Now if you; or someone you love falls prey to a “clinger” there is a tactful way to remove yourself from their deadly grasp. Repeat after me “(insert clinger’s real name here) I promised myself I would get out of my comfort zone and try to meet as many people as I could at this event. If you don’t mind, I’m going to try my best to keep that promise. It was wonderful meeting you, clinger I mean (person’s name)” Then run like hell!

4)    Invading personal space: This is an easy one to spot because the other party will usually retract. The clueless will then advance and so begins something that almost looks like a poorly choreographed dance routine. One disclaimer: In certain cultures they communicate in very close proximity. Here in the US, it’s a bit troubling to talk with someone so close its like a 3-D movie in “Bad Breath O Vision”.

5)    Name Drop: This is when you go out of your way to mention impressive people you know. Here’s my crazy theory. If I’m really the rock star I want you to believe I am, then why not let my reputation (inclusive of who I hang with) precede me.  The only time that I would consider name dropping would be in a situation where the other person would benefit by facilitating an introduction. Trust me when I tell you that you will score more points, and garner more interest when you take on a more subdued, humble demeanor.

6)    “SmartPhoneus Interruptus” Continually checking your email, taking calls etc tells the other person “You don’t matter” Better to be present and (once again) give the other person the gift of your attention. Hey, don’t we all enjoy hanging out with people who make us feel important?

7)    Demonstrate Poor Listening Skills: There are so many ways to demonstrate poor listening skills. At the top of the list would have to be “listening to respond” instead of “listening to learn” When we listen to respond we start to get into “one uppery”, interrupting the other person and the conversation becomes this one way, non collaborative noise fest. When we “listen to learn” we ask the other person continuation questions such as “how so” “tell me more” “can you give me an example of that” and we encourage them to expand upon their thoughts. It’s also the quickest way for you to be considered an awesome conversationalist.

8)    Lay on the “BS” too thick. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good war story, I’m even cool with some creative license but sometimes people can lay on the bullsh*t a tad thick. On two separate occasions, from two separate people I was told that what they do and how they do it is “the best on the planet” I now respond to that with “Well that might be the case, but my blog kicks ass in this solar system as well as the 3 other solar systems which means my interplanetary beats your minuscule planetary, so bite me!” All joking aside, don’t ever be ashamed of being yourself. The real you is always the best choice. Screw them if they don’t like it. Next!

9)    “Speed Dating”  Let’s all be honest, we don’t network so we can have a few new best buddies to sing songs around the camp fire. We all know why we’re there. When we attempt to rush the process of establishing rapport, credibility and trust, it diminishes our personal brand and encourages resistance from the other person. Learn to be patient, slow down, take a chill and understand that it will happen (get this) . . . when it happens. Think courtship!

10) Making Yourself Look Unapproachable: My name is Paul (Hi Paul) and I’m a former frownaholic. It’s totally true and I’m so not proud of it. People used to come up to me at networking events and ask me if I was pissed about something. I remember responding to one woman “I wasn’t but I am now” I told my wife about what was happening and she sat me down and set me straight. She told me how I rarely smiled and always looked pissed . It’s totally true and I totally needed to fix that ASAP. It didn’t happen overnight for me, but I can honestly tell you that once I learned to lighten up, smile and just stop with the taking it all so seriously stuff, my world changed big time! I started attracting wonderful friends into my life and my networking changed too. People would come over to me at events and tell me that it looked like I was having a much better time than they were and they needed some of that enthusiasm to rub off. Truth be told, we often have no idea how we come across to the world. Our heart might be in the right place but our visual self might be giving the world an unintentional middle finger.

11) Get Political, Religious, Controversial or Distasteful. I have witnessed more otherwise productive conversations take an immediate nose dive  by people who felt a need to discuss politics, their religious beliefs etc. Keep that out of your business discussions unless you enjoy seeing people go from zero to combative in 3 seconds. Under the same category of “don’t go there girlfriend” is the old distasteful joke thing. It’s one thing to try and navigate those treacherous waters when you know the other person, but it’s just plain stupid to attempt something like that when you don’t really know the other people.

Your turn . . .

What are your thoughts about this list? Have you witnessed (or dare I say, participated in) any of these? What can we add to the list?

I help individuals and organizations sell more. To learn how, click here. To answer the question “Who is this dude?” click here.

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  • JimBouchard

    Bad breath! So often overlooked! Hey- for the price of a box of Tic Tacs, there’s no excuse!

  • http://yoursalesplaybook.com paulcastain

    Very true Jim!

    I believe I lost most of my hair from talking with people with stinky breath :)
    Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts!

  • francey@sroberts-specialty.com

    Fantastic, Paul! You should recycle this one every few months.

  • http://yoursalesplaybook.com paulcastain

    Thanks Francey!

    Happy Wednesday to you my friend!

  • francey@sroberts-specialty.com

    and back atcha!

  • Patricia Wittkopp

    Paul, I like that you mentioned #10 – I have been guilty of such. When I started out I took on a what I thought was an authoritative stance and mindset (I was young and am short and was trying to compensate). While interviewing a candidate, my then boss had to pull me aside and tell me to chill out, I was terrifying potential employees. He said I was probably the most intimidating person he had ever witnessed in a job setting. It completely floored me! Here I was trying so hard to look and act professional and all I was doing was acting and looking scary. Had to do a total reset – now I may be accused of smiling too darn much.

  • Jon Greener

    I like “listening to learn” and “listening to respond”, great summation. It reminds me of the deleted scene from Pulp Fiction between Mia and Vincent, where she asks him (after “Young or old Elvis?”), “When you’re speaking with someone, do you listen or wait to talk?” Like Vincent, I try really hard to listen. But, sometimes find myself waiting to talk. Thanks, Uncle Paul!

  • JimBouchard

    My pleasure! Loved your article…sharing now…

  • Victor Clarke

    If it’s a formal networking meeting and you arrive late and/or leaving early tells me you don’t care about me.

  • http://yoursalesplaybook.com paulcastain

    Thanks Victor!

    Good point!

  • http://yoursalesplaybook.com paulcastain

    I really appreciate that Margaret! An all caps THANK YOU!

    I agree with your thoughts about trying to pin down an appointment right away like that. It’s not the way things are done and sends more of a “one night stand” message than a desire to “marry”.
    Thanks again!

  • rsakanashi

    Excellent topic and content Paul.
    When working with my clients on the subject of networking I remind them to remember that networking is a marketing activity. Spending too much time with one person may be keeping you from meeting another. If the conversation moves towards sales, suggest setting up a meeting at a later date and move on.
    Another undermining behavior that can turn your networking into not-working is forgetting to tell the people you engage, what you are there for – asking the question “Do you know anyone who…?”
    Good selling,
    Richard

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