If you grew up in Britain in the 60s, 70s and 80s, the chances are the words ''through the round window'' will take you right back to the wonderful world of Play School ...
In every episode, this beloved BBC children's programme featured an aspect of the world seen through one of three different windows. It was a clever device to frame the subject in young minds, and that image has stuck in most of our heads throughout our lives. It instantly came to mind for me for the image to go with this blog post.
Our childhood was made up of the endless repetition of do's and don'ts, all designed to help us fit into the culture we lived in. The endless repetition means we rarely question the validity of those 'truths' about how we should behave.
Now the English have strong cultural rules about privacy and reserve and I am reliably told that this reserve causes amusement or annoyance to people from other cultures who are trying to do business with us.
I think it is also the root of the most frequent objections I hear to the concept of networking meetings. I frequently hear people say "I hate networking" or, rather rudely, "It's just so American" which is English code for describing things they perceive as originating in the USA and too brash and in your face.
Think about some of those messages that were drummed into many of us as children. What would happen if we re-framed these instructions as adults participating in business networking? If we looked at them through another window?
I believe we can still maintain our English way of doing things; we just reframe the message in our heads and turn them into giving activities. This opens up opportunities to behave differently and enables others to see us through that giving window too, as the chances are they have the same childhood messages going around their head.
Here are some examples of my personal re-framing, maybe they can work for you too.
- "Don't talk to strangers" re-framed becomes "Turn strangers into friends". You were not born knowing all the people you know, you met them along the way, even your family. Most of them were introduced to you, first by your family and then at school, clubs and work. Many network groups and events have a format that facilitates these introductions. You can add to this by taking on the role of facilitator and introducing people to people.
- "Speak when you're spoken to" turns upside down as "Invite others to speak". Ask questions to the others about their work and lives, in other words, allow them to speak when they are spoken to. You will get your chance too when they ask you questions in return.
For the next three how about changing your behaviours from talking to listening?
- "Don't interrupt" becomes "Join in with what others are talking about".
- Instead of "Children should be seen and not heard", how about "When I listen I learn".
- "If you haven't got anything interesting to say don't say anything" converts into "Be interested not interesting".
Now you're participating, gaining a reputation as a listener, someone who is co-operative rather than pushing your own agenda. Now people will be open to co-operating with you.
After all, if you're networking to develop your business you can't be too self-effacing, you've got a living to earn. How can you re-frame asking through a giving window? This was one of my greatest insights, as it was perhaps the greatest barrier I had to gaining success. I had learnt these childhood lessons too well.
"I want doesn't get" transforms into "Enable others to help you". Assisting others to help you is a giving activity. I first had this insight when someone, who had networked with me for years, gave me a referral and remarked "Oh thank goodness for that, I have been trying to pay you back for ages".
She had been feeling very uncomfortable about the inequality of our relationship as I have referred her a few times. What I had only just done was give her the right information so that she could refer me.
This brings me to the last instruction that is culturally deeply embedded in the English psyche and which I believe is the major reason people say "I hate networking",
Our real aversion is to people who promote themselves as summed up in the instruction "Don't blow your own trumpet", which gets translated in complaints about being surrounded by strident salespeople pushing brochures in your face over breakfast.
Alternatively, many people dislike having to present their business for 60 seconds, and some will even avoid going to meetings that have this slot.
So how can you re-frame this one so that you get to promote your business and maintain our cultural values? Try this one. "Networking is a means of meeting people who will blow your trumpet for you and in return, you'll do it for them".
Now you don't upset people by being a pushy salesperson and your 60-second pitch is to meet like-minded people to explore how you can help each other.
And as for the other people with more direct sales approaches just accept that they have different childhood messages going around their heads. Maybe they were brought up with this one: "If you don't ask you won't get"?
If you're a nervous networker or adamant that you just hate it why not check in with what childhood words are going around your head when someone invites you to come networking to promote your business?
How about looking at it through another window?
If you'd like to learn more about referral marketing then do give me a call on 07970 638857 and let's have a chat and see how I can help you.