Many of us struggle with networking; the very thought of initiating a conversation with someone new conjures up old insecurities and a deep abiding fear. Rather than seeing these conversations as information gathering, they are viewed as opportunities for rejection.
As you might guess, I regularly encourage clients to network, network, network. This reasonable suggestion is generally met with a great deal of resistance, fear and numerous excuses for why this approach simply won’t work in this situation.
Last month one of my clients had a light-bulb moment of clarity when she reframed networking meetings as curiosity conversations. Brilliant! As a result of this paradigm shift she has struck gold. Although fear still rears its ugly head, she is moving forward with a spring in her step. In the ensuing weeks she has uncovered new opportunities, rediscovered old connections and identified a niche market uniquely suited to her skill set. You go girl!
Forget networking. From now on, I am recommending that clients embark on a series of curiosity conversations. Those sound like a lot more fun.
In a 2013 article in Time magazine, Anne Murphy Paul, called curiosity “the engine of intellectual achievement.” The Carnegie Mellon University professor of economics and psychology wrote, “Curiosity arises when attention becomes focused on a gap in one’s knowledge.” Being curious is a way of expressing interest in another. And that, folks, is what networking is all about – being interested in the other person.
Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of “The Luck Factor,” has researched the role that being open and inviting to others, (in other words, being curious) plays in the amount of good or bad luck one experiences. It turns out that lucky people have a knack for striking up conversations with people and are more curious and open to others than their less-than-lucky counterparts.
One of my friends is a well-respected professional who approaches every business interaction with a sense of curiosity. She says, “I’m not nosey, I am really interested.” And indeed her curiosity has endeared her to a host of business people who have become clients and more importantly, friends. She is not a sales person they hold at arms length. Her inquisitiveness enables her to be of real service to the people in her network. She is a trusted ally whose calls are always welcome because she brings value to every interaction.
My own curiosity emerges when I meet someone with an unusual occupation, for example, ortho-bionomy. In these situations I find myself firing off question after question in an attempt to learn more about and understand the choices that led to this career. I am infected by their enthusiasm and passion for their work. I genuinely want to know more.
When does your curiosity come out? The question I plan to regularly ask myself is, “How can I invite curiosity out more frequently?
True interest leads to deeper, richer conversations, and more meaningful connections. If you want to be successful, stay curious.