As an introvert I know exactly how hard networking can be, which is one of the reasons why I wrote my book Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life. I wanted to share the lessons I’ve learned to help moms who struggle with building community or find themselves overwhelmed by the prospect.
You could say I’ve had plenty of practice. Since I was a child, I’ve been plopped right smack into established social networks and made to work around them. As a military brat, that was life. And while these experiences weren’t always easy, they were invaluable and prepared me for adulthood. Throughout my early career, as a new mom, and still today, building community is essential.
While it can be a source of great stress, connecting with new people is a personal growth opportunity every single time. With that in mind, here are five common networking mistakes we can learn from:
Compare yourselves to others in the group. If you start sizing up the other women before they’ve even opened their mouths and assume you won’t fit in, you set yourself up to fail.
The fix: Give yourself a chance. Go in with an open heart. Most people in networking groups are excited to meet new, interesting people. And they can’t wait to get to know you.
Looking closed off. Body language sends strong messages. What is your body telling everyone? Staring down at your phone, huddling in a corner, crossing your arms, distracting yourself with your kids and not attempting to talk to anyone will make people assume that you aren’t interested in chatting.
The fix: Keep your hands relaxed and to your sides or behind your back. Smile warmly. Approach someone you haven’t met yet and introduce yourself.
Not being curious. When some people get nervous, they’ll fall back into talking only about themselves. This can get tedious for the listener after awhile.
The fix: When you’re feeling nervous, ask questions and listen. Talk about each other’s kids and explore common interests.
Pretending you’ve never met a mom who you’ve already met. This is awkward for all involved. I’ve seen moms I’ve met who I’m not sure if they remember me and then I can’t decide if I should say hello.
The fix: If you make eye contact, say “Didn’t we meet at ______?” “We’ve met before, but I can’t recall where…” or “Aren’t you Jillian’s mom?” Usually there’s relief in the other person’s eyes because you broke the ice.
Or they’re completely perplexed because they really don’t remember you. And that’s OK too. They’re paying closer attention now and will remember you the next time. Rather than taking these situations personally, keep in mind that some people have a poor memory for faces and honestly aren’t good at recognizing people they’ve previously met.
Making a beeline for people you already know. If you’re a member of a moms’ group, how well your group welcomes new members into the fold is more important than you may realize. Groups die because new moms don’t feel welcome. Realize that joining a new group of women who already know each other well is intimidating and can feel isolating to your guest or potential new member.
The fix: Whenever you have new members or guests, introduce them to the rest of the group. Then split up and chat with your newbies.
Whenever I put myself in a networking situation, I grow more confident and more at ease. So even if you’ve made a few of these mistakes–goodness knows, I have–keep putting yourself out there. And just be you. You’ll feel better about yourself and more resilient in general. Your confidence, warmth and optimism will leave a positive imprint on each person you meet.
What networking mistakes have you experienced as a mom?