Does the idea of ‘networking’, or talking to a bunch of strangers at an office party or work event cause you to break into a sweat?
Many of us would rather stay home than be forced to speak with our peers, team mates, colleagues, or worse yet, our boss. The trouble is that complete avoidance can do more harm than good to our confidence.
Even this kind of social networking is still crucial if you want to step up in your career. As Richard Branson put it, “Nobody can be successful alone”, and in our fast moving business world, we all need people to help and support us. So here are 6 tips to boost your confidence and help you network like a pro at your next party.
1. Reframe your mind
The way we talk to ourselves determines how we think, with positive self-talk leading to a positive mindset. If our self-talk is negative, however, we can feel pretty bad about ourselves, especially when it comes to talking to new people.
To get on top of your negative self-talk, you need to pay attention to what is going on in your head. Then change or re-frame your negative self-talk to something more positive or at least neutral. For example, from ‘I hate networking, I’ll never be any good at it,’ to ‘I love a challenge. It’s time to push myself out of my comfort zone and meet some interesting new people. You never know what might come from it.’
2. Embrace silence
Most of us rush to finish our point of view because we’re worried we will be interrupted and won’t get it all out. Or we think the other person is bored or disinterested if they haven’t engaged with us straight away. But silence isn’t your enemy; it can actually be a powerful confidence-projecting tool.
Pauses help us to take in and understand someone else’s main point. In turn, the other person could be doing the same. This helps us to respond in a more considered way, rather than just rambling incoherent sentences back (often fueled by the punch).
Ironically, the ability to live with silences, whether of your own making or the other person’s, makes you appear more confident.
3. Check your body language
Your body language is just as important as the words coming out of your mouth. According to Carol Kinsey Gorman, PhD, an executive coach and consultant in nonverbal communication, audiences perceive speakers to have more positive traits – such as warmth and energy – when they use a variety of gestures.
While some physical gestures, such as fiddling with clothing or touching your hair, can distract or convey a lack of confidence, using your hands when you speak is a great way to communicate your excitement and knowledge.
We can learn a lot from yogi philosophy on breathing, and its ability to help us create stillness and manage our nerves.
In fact, a period of quiet deep breathing causes blood pressure to drop – and to stay down for as long as 30 minutes – according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society.
Breathing is at the heart of virtually every meditation practice. This is because paying attention to the breath brings us fully into the present. It slows our heart rate and forces us to focus on the here and now – just try it and see.
5. Master fear
Fear tends to manifest itself as What if I fail? What if people criticise me or judge me? What if people reject me?
In The Confidence Code, journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman define confidence as ‘being prepared to fail’. This means that confidence is not about never feeling afraid or nervous or anxious. It is about not letting those feelings stop you.
So when you’re networking, remember that self-confidence is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it. And the best way to master it is to face it head on. Just give it a go and learn from what doesn’t go so well, rather than beating yourself up over it.
Some friends and I coined the term ‘#ownit’ when we travelled to Harvard Kennedy School for their Women and Power program in 2016. We discovered that you can get yourself into the first-class lounges in some airports if you looked like you belong. All you have to do is approach with confidence, a smile and eye contact as you walk in.
Now it isn’t always as simple as that, but when you #ownit you do project a different presence. We all know people who do this well and the impact this has on their presence is tangible.
So avoid too much alcohol, hold your head up high and #ownit at your next party.
Connect with Michelle here.
Michelle Sales is a Premium member, facilitator and coach who helps senior leaders and their teams learn to show up as the best version of themselves, to build their confidence and influence with others, and to maximise their leadership and performance. She is the author of the book ‘The Power of Real Confidence’ published by Major Street.