This is the another in the “Limited Networker Field Guide” series.
Name: The Lurking Silent Sitter
Environment: Attending a networking event, usually seated in the corner and hating every minute of it.
Behavior: The Lurking Silent Sitter is often a newcomer to networking. She feels uncomfortable with the whole process and is only doing it because she “has to”. As a result of this, she tends to go through the motions of networking without any real desire to help or even talk with anyone else. She will show up at an event, usually right when it starts or even a little late. She quickly heads to the buffet line, grabs her food without making eye contact with anyone, and then claims her seat near the edge of the room. She doesn’t attempt to draw anyone into conversation and would be just as happy if everyone ignored her. It’s not that she actually dislikes people. She just doesn’t know what to do and feels so uncomfortable in the situation that all she can do is wait for it to end.
Broken Rules of Good Networking: Talk with strangers. The Silent Sitter desperately wants the benefits of networking without actually having to network. Especially at events, people have to step out and make themselves approachable. It’s the only way to make the initial connections which turn into powerful networks. Unfortunately for the poor Sitter, the only people who are likely to walk up and engage her in conversation will be someone like the Slimy Strong-Arm Salesman — something which is likely to make the Sitter hate networking even more.
Counter-Measures: The Silent Sitter doesn’t really require counter-measures. She doesn’t force herself on others nor does she have any of the active negative behaviors of the other Limited Networkers. She is, in fact, her own victim and her own worst enemy. That being said, even the best networkers can occasionally find themselves emulating this nervous bird. Anytime you walk into a new networking venue full of strangers, you can feel a little bit of the old “Don’t talk to strangers” pattern trying to take hold. It’s far too easy to succumb to that feeling and hide out in the back of the room waiting for the event to conclude. Be aware of your feelings in these cases and realize that as a Successful Networker, you can walk into the thick of any group and make connections right from the start.
How We Can Help: While Silent Sitters think they don’t want to talk with anyone, in reality, just like most of us, they just don’t want to have someone selling to them. Given a good conversational partner, they can easily come out of their shells and become great networkers in their own right. If you should see someone off to the side trying to avoid contact, make a point of going up and introducing yourself. Don’t be surprised if they act a little shy at first. Ask your feel-good questions. Get them talking. Be interested. Ask them if they would like to be introduced to anyone. Mostly just make them feel welcome.
Before you know it, they can become a powerful member of your network and your generosity in coming to their rescue will pay dividends in the long run.
Photo credit: Mireque Kodesh