Recently, I walked into a business-networking event without knowing a soul. That wasn’t the original plan, of course. The friend who had recruited me to attend was supposed to be my wing-woman, but just as I parked my car at the venue, I received an apologetic text from my friend saying that she was hopelessly trapped in traffic hell on I-95.
Being a congenital introvert, I seriously considered turning around and heading home—but I’d paid $40 for my ticket! So I took a few deep breaths and implemented Plan B, which consisted of channeling my Mother’s voice: “Dear, when you walk into a party without knowing other guests, just pretend you are the hostess. Make it your job to help everyone else feel welcome.”
That’s what my Mother used to say when I was a teen and apprehensive about attending a party (any party!). At the awkward age of 15, I found it hard to follow Mom’s advice, but she was right. I still find it hard to do, but I pumped myself up, and walked into the lion’s den. I made friends with the ladies checking people in, and asked if they needed any help. They said no, but gave me the scoop on who had already arrived. As soon as I saw someone standing alone in the crowd I walked up, said hello, and offered to buy them a drink. Then I introduced her to the people waiting in line at the bar.
I didn’t make any groundbreaking contacts at that networking event, but I did break some ground in my own psyche. I’m finally getting it that Mom was right—people at a networking event are actually grateful to me for approaching them. My teens would have been a lot easier if I had listened to Mother, but now it’s paying off!