My sales coach, Joe Marr, does this fun bit with his introductory seminar.  He has the crowd complete the following sentence: “Never talk to…” and almost without fail, everyone in the class will respond “…strangers“. It’s a pattern that we have absorbed to the point that we don’t even have to think about it.

And that’s the danger.

While that particular pattern kept us safe when we were five, it does nothing to help us now that we are adults. In fact, it works contrary to our goals when it come to networking.  Imagine you’ve just shown up at a Chamber lunch and in the back of your head a little audio player has your mother’s voice on a loop saying “Never talk to strangers. Never talk to strangers. Never…”  How are you going to feel about your prospects of success at completing your networking goals?

Since meeting strangers is sort of the first step in the development of a good network, you need to crush this pattern and get it out of your head (at least for the time you are at your event).

One of the easiest techniques I’ve found for that is to stop thinking of yourself as an attendee at the event and instead pretend you are the host of a party in your home.  If you did that, then the people you would be meeting would no longer be strangers, but rather friends, acquaintances, and even friends of friends. You would never think of ignoring a guest in your home.  Use those same skills now, to greet and make welcome every person who walks in the door. Suddenly you’ve made everyone else’s life a lot easier (after all, they probably have that same message playing in the backs of their heads).

Patterns might have been  a great help to us when we were growing up.  For the most part they kept us safe from harm. Be sure though, that the patterns we’ve brought with us from our childhood are still benefiting us in our adult lives.  If necessary, take out your mental hammer and smash those that limit you.  That way you’ll get to see that all of those so-called strangers are in reality, just friends you haven’t met yet.