“Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.”
~Washington Irving

Do you remember the character Schleprock from the old “Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm” cartoon show? P&B was a short-lived spin-off of “The Flintstones” following the children of Fred and Barney into their teen years. Anyway, for those who didn’t watch Saturday morning television in the early 70’s, Schleprock was this sad, pathetic, loser (let’s not mince words) whose only significant trait was that he was constantly surrounded by bad luck. His catch-phrase when he appeared on screen was a whining “Wowzie wowsie woo-woo”. Most of the other characters on the show tried to avoid him for fear that his bad luck would rub off on them.

When it comes to networking (or life), don’t be a Schleprock.

Listen, I know bad things happen to everyone and when it happens to us, it feels like it is the sole focus of our lives. When we make our misfortunes the constant topic of our conversation, though, our networking partners start to avoid us. Our network might even be willing to help with our troubles, but if we’re dwelling in our misfortune, we can’t hear the solutions — or no one even sticks around long enough to give us the gift of their advice.

If people start to head the other way when they see you approach, or their eyes start to roll when you begin your litany of complaints, here are five new approaches to the conversation that will give you better results.

  1. Focus on the positive. You must have something good going on in your life. Lead with that. Be sure it’s a real positive, though, and not a complaint disguised as “good news”. I had one Schleprock in my life who when I asked her for some good news said something like “Well, the side effects of the medicine for Bobby’s horrible illness aren’t as bad as we feared — though it is costing us more than we can afford.” If this had been an isolated statement or even had she been asking for advice, it probably would have been OK. In reality, this was about the level of good cheer she brought to every conversation. Not someone you wanted to be with for any length of time.
  2. Focus on the progress. So, you have challenges in your career or life. There’s objectively nothing wrong with that. The problem arises when you aren’t doing anything about it. Think about how you’d respond to the following two statements: “We just aren’t making enough revenue this year.” and “Our revenue isn’t where we want it to be so we are implementing a new marketing program involving strategic social media outreach.” Which of these makes you want to say “Tell me more”?
  3. Focus on the future. Please tell me you have something fun or exciting or adventurous planned for your future. If you don’t, plan something! Are you going on a family trip? Are you looking forward to staying home with the family over the holidays? Are you excited about a new movie coming out? Is your business having its annual picnic? You need something good to look forward to, not only for yourself, but also for those with whom you are talking. Let them join in the fun at least vicariously.
  4. Focus on their advice. Perhaps you mentioned a challenge you are facing right now and how you are looking for some solutions. Your networking partners can lead you to those opportunities. Here’s the thing, any advice they give you is just that, a gift. If you start telling them all the reasons their idea won’t work, you’ve just thrown that gift on the floor and stomped on it. Your mother raised you better than that. Listen, really listen to what they have to say. Ask them details about how they implemented this solution themselves. Even if you tried it before and it didn’t work, ask them what they might have done differently.
  5. Focus on them. If you truly have nothing good that you can say about your own life (not true), then do what good networkers do and focus on the other person. What’s going on well for them? What successes have they had in their life? What are they hoping to achieve? How are they overcoming the challenges they are facing? Remember, in networking, it’s almost always about them. It’s almost never about you.

No one wants to hang out with a Schleprock. If you focus only on the gray clouds swirling above you and ignore the numerous rainbows, positive people will steer clear of you. They don’t want your little storm cloud to rain on their parade. Focus on the good things in life and watch your network flock closer to you to bask in the sun.

Photo by Pixabay user skeeze