Be Better, NOT Bitter

We have all been disappointed by someone else – a partner, boss, colleague, friend, family. Because we’re close with them, that disappointment can run deep and turn to bitterness.

That bitterness can eat you up. Don’t let it. Be BETTER, not bitter.

My story

I still have a beef with an ex-boss. I gave her invites to special events, networking events, professional member clubs, professional development programs. I covered her (and learned the meaning of “no good deed goes unpunished”) for work emergencies. I even hooked her up with speaking gigs.

No thanks received, none expected. Fine. Whatever.

What got me bitter?  It was always about her. Never mind the idea of your boss being your mentor (wasn’t going to happen and I became my mentor, and developed myself into what I am. Highly recommended.). I didn’t mind sharing things (that’s part of the abundance mentality).

What irked me was the take-take-take, all-for-me mentality of my ex-boss. For example, I wanted to join this professional association. I even said we could both join. I asked for her to sign-off so the company could pay. Her response? This is outside the scope of the company’s reimbursement.

Meanwhile, she took care of herself and signed herself up and expensed it! WTF!!

I have since moved on from the company and paid for the association fees out-of-pocket. I’ve also seen the ex-boss at events thrown by the association. I am definitely bitter. When I see her, I can’t help but think “YOU WOULD NOT BE AT THIS EVENT SCHMOOZING AWAY IF IT WERE NOT FOR ME. ACK!”

But I am over it. (OK, maybe not totally over it, since I’m writing about it in this post!). And there’s some takeaways here.

Takeaways/Lessons:

  • Resentments add up. Just like eating bad food or drinking booze each day adds up the calories, the seemingly small things that are done to you add up. There were many small things at my old jobs that, taken alone, seem trivial. But taken together, was a super-affront to my value and blocking me from becoming Socially Upward
  • Anyone can be fooled. Fool me once…shame on you. Fool me twice (and then thrice, and then again and again) shame on ME! When you work somewhere, you let things slide while the resentment builds up. Can happen in a relationship, with family members and with jobs.
  • Get BETTER and get over being BITTER. Use these experiences as gauges for the future. Be happy these transgressions happened. For example, I know the true nature of my ex-boss. Wish I knew it back then instead of suffering Stockholm Syndrome, but now I know to be on-guard

People can’t help themselves. So be aware. Be mindful. You are BETTER and socially upward by realizing that people will (almost) always be self-interested.

The Five Networking Types You’ll Meet at Events

I’d like to take some time to boil down the five networking types you’ll meet when you hit networking events

  1. The Clique/Groupie

People from the same firm/company cling together. They’ll hit the food station together. The bar together. And if the clique is women-only, they’ll go to the bathroom together.

I don’t get it. You already work together eight hours a day, five (or more) days a week. Now you’re hanging out together, narrowing your chances to meet new people/leads/connections

If you are the clique-r/groupie member: You may be “stuck” with your clique and feel too polite to excuse yourself. If you have client development as part of your role, you MUST branch out. Let’s say you’re with your clique. The clique is at a standing table or the food station and you’re stuck in the clique’s orbit. Try this: someone will walk by – strike up a small-talk conversation with that someone. The goal here is to break up the gravitational pull of the clique.

2. The Card Dealer

Ever been to a casino and watched the tables? The croupier (er, the card dealer, trying to show off some, uh, French?) deals out cards.

If you haven’t been to a casino, you can also happen in real life! At a networking event with some big-shot wannabe dishing out cards to every one he meets.

(Sidebar: some cultures, i.e. Chinese business culture, it is automatic for Chinese business folk to give you their card after saying hello. Actually, I’m mid-way through “hello” when I get a card gracefully presented to me with two hands with my Chinese counterpart).

I have a view that carrying cards is a mythical need (future post!). Rather, the more important to-do is to build rapport and have a meaningful connection with new people you meet.

3. The Sidler

Sometimes you go to events and people you’ve met before (and didn’t get along with) are there. If they’re comfortable in networking, they are probably going to be a “Sidler”. That is, they sidle up to you, usually from the side or behind.

There’s this one young lady I see. Can’t effing stand her. Know-it-all, proud she’s so accomplished, yada yada yada. So when I am at events, she shoots me a dirty look to not join her when she’s in conversation.

Fine, whatever. As a Socially Upward, I can strike new conversations with new people.

So I do that. Suddenly, this young lady sidles up to me. Doesn’t really care to know what I’m up to. No, she sees me as a bridge to new contacts/connections. Ah, the Sidler!

People are opportunistic. People can be thick-skinned. One minute you’re chopped liver to them. Then when you are just a tiny bit useful, all the sudden they sidle up to you…only to ignore you and tap you as their bridge.

4. The Eye-Wanderer

Women hate it when their man has ‘wandering eyes’ on the street (e.g. checking out other ladies).

But both men and women can be eye-wanderers. I’m talking about meeting someone, and within about five minutes, their eyes are scanning the room hoping to meet a bigger fish.

I get it. I do it too (although i blame it on an un-diagnosed and probably non-existent ADHD). If you have wandering eye, FOCUS. Be present. Give the other person your attention. The interaction will probably last all of five minutes. You can spare them that. Once you feel you’ve exhausted your time, you can then excuse yourself. (“Well, Rory, it was nice meeting you. I really enjoyed talking about XYZ. I think we might have something here. Let’s exchange cards and grab a coffee.” Only do this if you want to meet Rory for follow-up, of course!)

5. The Interviewer

I always believe in the ‘two ears, one mouth’ principle – i.e. you have two ears and one mouth, so listen twice more than you speak. To ensure I can connect with people, I listen to them. Then I also ask questions to have people open up. (Sidebar: Unless the other person is a rambler…then you have permission to eye-wander and not ask any questions.)

Some people take question-asking to an extreme. So instead of ‘soft’ questioning to open up your new friend, the Interviewer just goes on rapid-fire questions. Typically their questions SUCK too. Like yes/no questions as opposed to deeper questions. The interviewers also suck because it feels like they are sucking information out of you to judge your value.

One time, I met a senior lawyer. I got a rapid set of questions. Question 1. Question 2. Question 3. Hell, mid-way in my answer to Question 3,  this lawyer was on to Question 4.  I could tell she assessed I was of no use to her. (Something about her leaving me on the spot while I answered Question 4).

“Hey, don’t you want to know the end of Question 4’s answer…” Oh, right. I never felt so used  by a woman!

So there you have the Five networking characters you’ll see or meet at networking events. Maybe there are others – let me know in the comments section below!

Holiday Networking Survival Guide

It’s early December as I write this…between now and December 24th, you’ll have at least ONE party/event/gathering. It is, after all, holiday season! Some events may be personal (e.g. family/friends hosting a party) while others may be professional (e.g. firm parties, company events, year-end club holiday socials).

These are all ‘networking’ events. While I hate that term ‘networking’, remember that you have to ‘on’ – on point, on message and ‘present’.

Here are a few points to help you survive the hectic holiday season:

Professional Events (galas, company parties, client invites)

  1. Have a purpose set out

Depending on your role and goals, begin with the end in mind. Are you seeking a new role, either in a new industry, new company or new region? You want to be mindful of what your goals are as this will tune you to potential opportunities or people who can help you down the road.

2. Always be professional

Needless to say, take it easy on the hors d’oeuvres and open bar! My Socially Upward readers may not need this reminder but time and again, I’ve seen it happen: the person who drinks too much booze and makes a jackass out of himself. Even worse if that person approaches you and makes your look bad.

3Be Human

People you meet (be it co-workers, clients, referrals, etc.) are human. Meaning they have families, holiday stresses and possibly year-end pressures. So remember that. You can keep the shop talk to a 50/50 (or a ratio favouring the personal side ) and aim to talk real-life non-work topics.

Example: Any plans for the holidays? Are you visiting/travelling to meet your family?

4. Keep up the energy

As a Socially Upward reader, you probably have more than ONE event to attend (yay!). Hitting events can be tiring. Even more tiring if it so happens that events are on the same night and you’re event-hopping. (Kudos!) When people see you for the first time of the night, be upbeat, keep up the energy as you want to attract new leads, contacts and opportunities at this time of the year!

5. Be positive

At this time of the year, people you meet may not be on their best behaviour (e.g. stressed from work for year-end deadlines, personal stresses with family commitments). So don’t take it personally and just be positive and be happy you are at these cool events. You’re socially upward!

Personal Events (Family gatherings, Meetup with Friends)

Although personal events can be informal, remember that it is not only a time to re-connect with friends or casual connections. It’s an opportunity to plant the referral seeds.

  1. Focus on them

Let’s be delicate here – your personal contacts aren’t expecting to be “sold to” but it’s still OK to talk about work. After all, we spend at least half our lives commuting and earning a paycheque. As a socially upward, you can learn from your successful friends (both their successes and failures). So be sure to hear them out and lend a kind ear.

2. Avoid sound like a calculated robot

So I do encourage you to have a little bit of ‘shop talk’ when you have your personal events. But just a little. You want to inject the seeds about what you’re up to without boring the hell out of your personal contacts with too much work-work-work talk.

3. Resolutions for the new year

People may have resolutions. Invariably, they’ll range from getting a new job, losing weight, getting fitter, finding the ‘One’, or landing new clients. As a socially upward, and reader of sociallyupward.com, you may be able to help out your contacts with their resolutions.

Getting out There

80% of success is simply showing up. But to hit the full 100%, you also have to be present. This holiday season, you will have both personal and professional parties/events/meetups. Take these as an opportunity to further your socially upward ambitions using the pointers laid out in this post.

Happy schmoozing!

Johnny Elle

From Socially Awkward to Socially UPWARD