When I first moved into the town I live in, I was invited to go to the local business group for some network. The real estate agent gushed at me, “It would be a GREAT opportunity!” I shared this with my assistant, Julie later and she commiserated with me. “Sounds more like an awkwardtunity!” This led to a deep discussion on the challenges so many people face with networking groups.
In a coaching call I had the other day, my client said, “It is hard for me because I am an introvert.” I agreed and said, ” Me, too!” He laughed out loud! Many people who see my public life think this means I am an extrovert but I am very introverted-I simply have learned extroverted tools. And you can too!
I do not go to BNI meetings or Chamber of Commerce events. I have attended less than a handful and mostly because I was the speaker or honored guest.
The awkwardtunity that I wrote about above went HORRIBLY bad. I sat at a table of 25 or so local bankers and real estate agents. Each person had a turn to introduce themselves and say where they were from. Each guest was politely received with quiet nodding. When it came my turn, I said my name and that I was the new chiropractor in town and had a home office. The quiet nodding exploded as the woman running the meeting gasped, “You’re a CHIROPRACTOR??!!” (she makes it sound like ebola carrying leper with no skin and maggots crawling out of my eyeballs)”I am in this walker because of a chiropractor.” Augg.
Enter awkward silence stage left. I felt myself turn very red. (“This is why I hate these meetings”, I thought. “I am ruined in this town now. Augg. Why won’t the floor boards open and swallow me up?!” I nervously looked around for exit strategies and I happen to catch her eyes and all of the noise in my head went away. I just saw this PERSON in front of me. In pain. With a problem. I had no idea what she thinks happened. I have no clue of her history and her chiropractor’s history.
But I saw her humanity. And mine. In our eyes in that moment. And I softened. I stopped thinking about myself. My shyness. My discomfort. My reputation. One thing that has always been bigger than my fear is my love. My love for humanity. For us to have the opportunity to “get it right”. To be free. So I took a breath and said calmly, “I am so sorry to hear that.” And I meant it. I really sent her love. And then I launched into a explanation of low force chiropractic. And that my training has given me the opportunity to adjust 1 day old babies all the way up to my 90 year old grandmother. I spoke about the efficacy of newer techniques and the importance of no interference between the brain and the body. I talked about how my husband and I valued using different techniques depending on the type of person and that we adjusted bulky firefighters and frail elderly people VERY differently.
I had more time than the others, people asked questions and it turned out to showcase my business. Why? Well, I believe it was not what she said but how I handled it. I did not get defensive. I did not let MY thoughts and feelings get in the way.
Remember that when people have issues or comments, it is not personal. It is not about you. You have something amazing to offer. Be ready for their objections. Stand tall and agree with them. “I understand. I am sorry that happened.” Then lovingly present the information you have to overcome their thoughts and ideas. Carry brochures or packets of information for them to look at. Be kind. Be smart. Give them bite size pieces of information that lead them to the next step.
(By the way, this woman ended up having us onto her very popular tv show to talk about chiropractic, backpack safety and all of the events we have in our office.)