Networking: from doormat to dazzler

19 Feb 2016 9:20 AM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

by Karen Glerum*, Global Connection                 

Whether you enjoy meeting strangers, depends as much on you as on them. Try to think positive about yourself and you may even come to relish the most dreaded question of all…

To love or to loathe

A British newspaper columnist asked successful professionals for advice on how to make it through a night of mingling with strangers at a festive party. She got a very mixed response: “Don’t go,” one actress simply said. “Take a good book and hide in the loo,” advised a celebrity chef. A playwright told her, “I used to be shy, but I’ve become more fearless about talking to people. I say: ‘I don’t know you, you don’t know me, that’s why we’re here.’”

Your mindset

“Whether you enjoy meeting new people has a lot to do with your mindset,” explains Global Connection consultant Karlijn de Broeck*. “If you go to an event and think: ‘Nobody will know me’, ‘Nobody will find me interesting’, then it is not going to work. If, on the other hand, you believe you are an interesting person and someone will enjoy your company, then you will have an entirely different experience. Luckily, people can improve their mindset. A life coach can help, by discussing the event in question, for example.”

Feeling like a doormat

Karlijn continues: “In my experience, the problem with meeting new people usually boils down to: ‘What will people think of me?’ Many expat partners particularly fear the question, ‘So, what do you do?’ They have often given up their job to move abroad, so what can they say? ‘I take my kids to school’ hardly seems a valid answer to them. It makes them feel like a doormat. I advise them to talk about what they do for fun, such as a sport, a hobby, volunteering. This steers the conversation into another direction, to a subject they can talk about with enthusiasm.”

Changing perceptions

The way you formulate your answer also influences people’s perceptions, says Karlijn. “A useful approach, for example, is to focus on who you help. Saying ‘I help at school with organising a fundraising event so they can extend the library’ or ‘I help my children to keep their native language skills on a par with their friends back home’ sounds much better than a plain ‘I look after my kids.’ Some people I work with find it hard to come up with a subject to talk about. But all of us have a passion that will help break the ice.”

*Karen en Karlijn will visit the 2016 FIGT Annual Conference in Amsterdam on behalf of Global Connection (12 conference attendees).

Adapted and edited from an original article, in Global Connection's media for spouses (B2B subscription).

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