Monday, February 14, 2011

How's the Weather?

So many conversations start with the topic of the weather. It doesn’t matter the season, it’s always one of the number 1 topics of discussion. Recently here in Minnesota we have had several different types of weather. We have had warm and cold. We have had snow, rain, ice and mud. All of these are great conversation starters including the commonly used, “Is it (insert hot or cold here) enough for ya?” Whatever the answer is it doesn’t lead to much weight in the conversation.

We have about 7 seconds to make a first impression. Do we want our opening line to sound like a cliché or would it be better to start a conversation with some forethought and something of substance?

So here is a list of a few non cliché phrases that you can use to start a meaningful conversation*-

  • What do you like best about what you do?
  • You mentioned that you were in (Industry). What got you started in that direction?
  • Where else do you usually network?
  • What are some of your biggest challenges?
And my VERY favorite of all time…
  • How can I help you?

Small talk is one thing but when you are trying to have meaningful conversations with people that stimulate more conversation or even a meeting at a later date, we want to take an interest in the other person. People in general have one common topic that is their favorite… themselves. It’s not out of selfishness. It’s truly because they are an expert on the topic. Give them a chance to share their expertise. When they realize that you are interested in them, they will take an interest in you. You begin to establish trust with your conversation partner. With trust we are able to begin to build a relationship with that person.

So next time you are with a person you’ve never met before, leave the weather out of it and go for the depth and meaningful conversation. You will make the other person feel comfortable, at ease and possibly begin a new relationship. Because really, isn’t that why we network in the first place?

*Questions taken from Networking Like a Pro by Dr. Ivan Misner

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rowing Through Mud

2010 kicked my butt! I had every intention of it being the BEST YEAR EVER and yet the things that I thought were solid were fluid.

I set my goals, I got a fantastic coach, I started a new business and began writing a blog. I also commenced writing a book as well as got asked to be a contributing author to another. My beautiful daughter got married and I now have a wonderful new son added to my family. I was able to travel more than I had in my life and had a wonderful vacation with some very dear “new” friends. I moved into a new home that I embraced with all its imperfections. I reconnected with friends I hadn’t known for years! I made some new friends that will be in my life forever. I had doors and opportunities placed in front of me that were beyond my imagination. And I have a family that is so dear and wonderful, words can’t express the depth of emotion I feel. For all these things, I am truly grateful.

I also had so many bad things happen that it made every day a challenge. I’m not talking, I’ve had a bad day and I’m a little fussy. I’m talking tragic, horrific and ugly. When my Doctor asked me how I had been and what was going on in my life since I had seen her last, I said, “Oh, you know, pretty much everything stayed the same…” And then one by one, I mentioned some of the things that had happened in the last year. When I finished, I was a little emotional. She reached over and squeezed my hand and gently said, “It sounds like you’ve been through hell”. I laughed through the tears that quietly fell and said “But isn’t everyone going through things like this or something like it?”

It’s true, we all have challenges that we could use as an excuse to just lie down. But as my mom always says, the things we experience make us the people we are. I have another friend who says, “rub some dirt on it and get back in there”. Last year, I didn’t want to “get back in there”. I was tired. However, I believe a person is a victim only if they want to be. I refused to be a victim and I fought hard, with every fiber of my being and I got back in there!

Why am I sharing this? If you know me at all or see me on Facebook, you know I am in no way a complainer. In fact… I despise complaining ((big smile)). I do know, however that I’m not the only person who had a “hard year”. I’ve heard it over and over again from people I know and even those I’ve barely met.

The purpose for this post is twofold. One, it’s a growing experience for me. A cleansing exercise, if you will. I don’t share my down days except with those who are VERY close to me. I think I can count them on one hand. As a Once Timid Networker, sharing anything about me would have been a struggle or I would have refrained completely. Thank you for allowing me the venue to grow.

Two, most importantly, I want to share what helped me, in hopes it can help someone else.

So here’s my list of things that will help when your day feels like mud and you’re trying to paddle through it to get to your destination.

1. Count your blessings- Sometimes taking stock of what good things are happening makes the bad things diminish, or at least give you a new perspective. I gave you my partial list at the beginning of this post. I mentioned the big things. However sometimes all you have to count are the small things, like witnessing a sunrise, a pen that WORKS, a smile from a stranger, a hug from a child, or a text from a friend. And one of my favorites, that first sip of coffee.

2. Find delight in small things- see above

3. Notice others- Everyone has problems, be a support for them. This helps us forget about the negative things going on in our own lives, if only for a few moments. Don’t just leave it at that either. Ask how you can help them. Check in on them regularly and give assistance to them. Even if it’s an ear for support.

4. Smile- A true eye squinting smile. A smile can help so much. It makes you feel better, it makes the people around you feel better and it releases endorphins that help your immune system and fight depression. You can be happy and improve your health!

5. Have a confidant that you can vent to- This is not the same as complaining or whining. This is factual release. This is not to imply that you talk to multiple people about all the things that are happening to you and venting to anyone who will listen. Or heaven forbid, post all your garbage on Facebook or Twitter. I’m talking about letting one or two people know what’s really going on so that they can “have your back” (see the book Who’s Got Your Back- Keith Ferazzi). This is so they can check in with you and be your support when it’s too much to take. For those who helped me through last year, you know who you are, I’m eternally grateful. I don’t know where I would be without your love, compassion, hugs and listening ears. Thank you.

6. Move on- Dwelling on the past is unproductive. You can’t turn back time to change it so why bother with the “what if’s” or “if only’s”. By looking backwards you keep bringing that negativity on yourself. If you noticed, I refrained from making a list of all the yucky stuff, and you all know how much I love a good list! But here’s the deal, list’s are made so you can remember something. Keep a list of the successes instead.

These are just a few things that helped me last year. But they have been great habits that I have used to continually keep myself in check. Little by little the mud goes away. Eventually you will find yourself in a lovely place again, whatever that may be for you. As I look around my life now, I see the mud receding and drying up. Is it all gone? By no means. However, I’ve come prepared and this year I intend to outsmart the mud!