You walk into a networking event, seminar, presentation or perhaps a social event and the first thing you do is survey the room. We look to see who we know, who seems familiar and the others; the people we don’t know assessing who we may like to get to know and who we feel a disconnection towards.
Let’s face it no matter whether it’s a work-based event or a social outing we are constantly applying our unconscious bias to who we will and won’t approach. One of the things I love as a consultant is that you are constantly meeting and engaging new people – a discovery tour of people which can deliver so much reward when you allow it too.
However, it is the perceived bias we carry into our interactions that can cause us the most difficulty. Looking at someone does not for one minute give you an indication of their knowledge, expertise or their background story.
I found myself in discussion with a young gentleman that was attending a financial services event – he was there as part of his commitment to his role. Now fair to say I observed him looking slightly uncomfortable and more than once looking at the door to leave. However, as the event progressed he approached a group of people and the conversation began to flow. Yes – he was giving it his best shot and networking!
My elation was short-lived as the person who I was speaking with at that moment noticed the subject of my attention. They proceeded to make a rather derogatory comment about whether this young man has enough knowledge to warrant him the role he had and what on earth he would know about networking.
Stop right there! Show a little respect!
I immediately made a move to speak with this young gentleman and began engaging with him in conversation. What a pleasure it was to see his enthusiasm for what he does and how refreshing his conversation was as he navigated introductions and kept people engaged. Not only was this young man well trained but he was passionate about his role and potential opportunities. He was university educated and worked in Financial Services for 6 years having just taken a big step up into this new role.
Whilst I have relived this experience with you, my point is that perception is not reality and we need to respect the people we meet, engage and look after as clients. You don’t know their story until you ask them and even then don’t they deserve your respect anyway.
The example I have given you here is just one of many judgements and bias’ that have played a part in the perception of someone. Imagine if every potential client you meet was treated this way. I had a wonderful discussion with the irrepressible Eleanor Dartnall recently. She told me that she treats all her clients with respect not for what they know but for what they don’t know because she can teach them that bit.
Business can be hard on occasion but Eleanor’s comments ring in my ears as I think about the number of people I work with. My knowledge and experience didn’t mean that I should not respect that young gentleman. What it did mean is that I had the opportunity to teach him something and in turn perhaps I may learn something too.
Don’t lose sight on showing someone compassion and treating them with respect, it is a gift you should give willingly. After all we expect to be given respect in return – it is then up to each party to maintain the respect in each other.
The winner on the night… the young man who left with a smile on his face having met a bunch of new people and loving his job.