Quite a while ago I wrote about the need to show "selective vulnerability" with your networking contacts. We need to be prepared to open up a little bit to those around us so that they can connect to us as a human being. It's that personal connection that makes our network so powerful. Unfortunately, a lot of people aren't really comfortable doing this. That's OK, just be patient with yourself and you will get there.
Just don't go too far.
I was at a networking event not long ago. As I was getting a seat for the presentation, I couldn't help but overhear the conversation between two of the folks at the table.
One young woman (who shall remain nameless -- mainly because I never caught her name) was telling a remarkable story about breaking up with her significant other. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say the story would not have been out of place on some of the racier soap operas. I felt a little embarrassed even to have overheard this tale of woe.
Then I looked at the other woman.
The expression on her face was an amazing combination of disgust, horror, confusion and boredom. She didn't contribute to the conversation at all and seemed only to be waiting for it to end. Apparently she was, because a few minutes after I sat down, she turned away from the sob story to introduce herself. Miss Lonely Heart, having lost her audience, drifted away, much to my new acquaintance's relief. It turned out that the two women had only met in passing once before.
"I guess I just have one of those faces that says 'Tell me your troubles'" she laughed.
While she had a pretty good attitude about the whole situation, it was pretty obvious that the other woman had gone down more than a few notches in her opinion. So that we don't fall into this limiting behavior, here are a few ideas about "oversharing".
- Consider your audience. If it's something you should normally only share with your spouse, best friend, or mental health professional, don't. I know it seems kind of obvious, but some folks don't have their social guidelines nailed on too tightly.
- Consider the innocent bystanders. Even if you are speaking to an appropriate audience, there will undoubtedly be the occasional person who might be close enough to overhear, especially in a large event setting such as the one I described. You never know who you might be making uncomfortable.
- Consider your attitude. In general, people don't like associating with negative people. You may be going through some dark times right now, but the more you can focus on the bright points, the more bright points there will be.
- Consider your reputation. Word of mouth is one of the things you want to achieve with your networking. Which words do you want, the ones about your horrible relationship or most recent physical ailment or the newest exciting adventure you are taking on?
Ultimately what you share with others is how they will perceive you. Choose your conversational topics accordingly.
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