When dealing with other people in the business world you need to realize that nobody is perfect. The first person you have to understand this about is yourself. I am very aware that I have faults, and while I am working very diligently to overcome these shortcomings, I still struggle.
I have written a book on the topic of building a professional network (available at www.thomsinger.com), and I have publicly spoken on this topic to dozens of companies, law firms and other organizations....and yet I still find myself breaking some of the very business rules that I try to teach others.
Yesterday I had a brief encounter with a nice woman named Pat. Although we are not close friends, I have known her for years through the local community. We talked briefly as we walked into a luncheon for the American Marketing Association. Pat asked me about my new job and how the writing of my book was progressing. I happily told her all about both of these exciting projects in my life, and our conversation ended as we reached the registration table. I did not realize it at the time, but I failed to ask her that simple question that is so important in networking: "How are things going for you?". I did not even realize it at the time, as I had been so happy to share with her the details of my own career.
The speaker at the luncheon was an author of another book on business relationships (The Ripple Effect by Steve Harper www.therippleeffectbook.com). During the questions at the end of the presentation, Pat raised her hand. Her question was a shot right into my heart. She asked, "When you are in situation where you are networking, what do you do if the other person talks only about themselves. Their new job, or their new book. How do you move the conversation back to you if the other person is self-centered?". OUCH.
I knew immediately that I had failed in my short interaction with Pat. While nobody else in the room knew whom she was talking about, I knew that I had been that selfish person. I know Pat is too nice of a person to have publicly embarrassed me, but I felt horrible.
The funny thing is that I know better than to be that self-centered person. I write articles and teach seminars on making your networking about the other person. I try very hard to overcome those demons inside many of us that wants to make it "all about ME". This was a great reminder that nobody is perfect, ... Certainly not the author of this article.
After the meeting I waited for Pat, hoping I could causally pick up where our conversation left off, but I did not see her again. I spent the rest of the day thinking back on our conversation, and her question to the speaker. I promised myself to refocus my efforts to listen more than I talk, and to never leave a conversation without being inquisitive about the other person. The old saying, "God gave you two eyes, two ears and one mouth, ....use them in proportion" rang out in my head all afternoon.
Sadly, I am sure I will fail to follow my own advise on this topic and others in the future. The trick, I guess, is to just continue to try to learn and improve.
Sorry Pat. The next time I see you I promise to ask how things are going in your world.
Have a great day.