I was really intrigued when I read that the fairer the sex network more effectively than men. “Ladies have more empathy – it’s in their genes – and they make connections easier than men”. This is a comment I read in an online discussion and, in this post, I bring to the fore why some networkers might think empathy is everything, explain why it’s a damaging belief to hold and highlight one distinct exception to the “gene rule”.
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Are women Oscar Winning networkers?
Or are they just having more fun than men? I’m often told Ladies networking groups are great fun yet I sometimes hear from business minded members who tell me they makes lots of friends, have lots of great conversations yet little business is generated. I don’t know whether that’s true or not as they don’t publish the results – very few networking groups do. Is there a danger that ladies are over empathising? That’s using the innate soft skills yet not adding to them to ensure a focused outcome is achieved.
I meet lots of men and women when networking and wouldn’t say that either talk too much or too little. Perhaps the all female environment lends itself to a totally “soft” situation? We are all in different towns on our networking journey, the level of empathy can depend on how much pressure is on an individual to make a sale. Pressure and empathy are not good bed fellows. I have met networkers performing poorly under a lot of pressure and some that clearly don’t want to do it yet neither sex performed consistently poorly enough to build a telling statistic. I don’t think either gender has an advantage. What do you think?
When is the time right to get down to business?
I don’t think you should ever forget about empathy as it is one of the skills that will help you maintain relationships and build those that are in their infancy. The time to tell (rather than sell) is when you are asked about yourself. This will happen if you’ve asked engaging questions first, so take a look at this post which has 5 to get you started and some great ideas in the comments.
If people you meet don’t ask you anything they may not know what to say, the questions will help you to help them. Some networkers struggle to empathise. Others may simply be looking for immediate sales. Don’t worry too much when you meet them because they are rare, ask some questions about them. When, and if, you are asked about your business it’s because they are using one side of their brain and you can make salient points that will help you generate the outcome you deserve for your efforts.
Are there exceptions to the “gene rule”?
I was startled when I recently heard a lady say that she didn’t want to tell people much at all when networking. “Ruth” preferred to state that she “was only there to listen” and the remarkable result was people following her around an event “longing” to find out what she did. Having people follow you is one way to enjoy networking and maybe great for the ego but it’s not great for empathising.
If they needed expertise yet didn’t know Ruth provided it an opportunity has been lost! Ruth likes to that stand out; that’s not the worst idea I’ve ever heard yet it’s probably better to be outstanding. The ultimate is being known for a particular brand (that’s not just your appearance ) plus an oscar award winning specialism, product or service. Then opportunities find you.
Wrap up: Don’t assume your innate skills give you an advantage. Ruth may be struggling to empathise but is not making salient points about her expertise either. If you struggle to empathise, here’s why you should use all of your brain when networking.
Top Tip: Add skills that will compliment what you were born with. Perhaps take a tip or two from the opposite sex, I know I did. If your competitors are stuck in their comfort zone you can clean up if you empathise and make it clear what you do when an opportunity knocks.
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