What terrifies you about making a new connection?
Fear is a universal emotion, especially when it includes the possibility of rejection. And what situation is more fraught with the possibility of rejection than meeting a new person and wanting it to go well?
Often it works. But sometimes it doesn’t.
Every time we approach someone new, whether socially or professionally, there is a possibility we won’t connect. Let’s think of some examples:
- You have a new job and want to build a relationship with your new supervisor. You make overtures to get to know that person, only to discover that there is an unexpected personality clash.
- You move into a new home and reach out to your new neighbors. You realize that your interest in getting to know them does not match their interest in getting to know you.
- You are traveling alone and want to meet new people. On a cruise, you make overtures to a friendly looking couple in the dining room in hopes they will invite you to sit with them. But they don’t ask.
- You have decided to join a dating app. You will meet some people who don’t click with you, and you with them.
In each of these scenarios, the rejection collides with our desire to authentically connect. Why is that? Because being a connector – a person who deepens their relationships by meeting and getting to know others — does not always come without risk.
How do I get past my fear?
Start by being like beloved artist Georgia O’Keefe.
With a career that spanned more than seven decades, who would have ever believed that Georgia O’Keefe doubted herself? In her lifetime, she produced more than 900 paintings. Yet, before being an acclaimed artist, she was initially attacked for the subject matter of her art. Some critics thought it vulgar. Others didn’t understand it.
Even so, Ms. O’Keefe stayed true to herself. “My painting is what I have to give back to the world for what the world gives to me,” she said.
There are three ways to get past your fear of meeting new people:
- Acknowledge it’s scary. Yes, being a connector isn’t simple or easy since we can’t always predict the outcome. And that unknown can be unnerving. But take comfort in understanding that you are not alone in feeling it.
- Practice at being a connector. Each time you extend yourself it gets easier. Come at it with an open mind and no “must have” outcome. More times than not, meeting new people with that attitude will produce a good experience.
- Imagine the possibilities. What if the new connections you meet could make your day? Make your week? Make your life? Although the latter may sound exaggerated, it’s not. The people you meet today may change your world in ways you can’t even dream.
What energizes you about making a new connection?
Thinking positively about what the what-ifs can help you push your fear and self-doubt away.
So let’s say you do go forward with the plan to meet or relate to someone new. You stretch and get out of your comfort zone, and it goes well. Do you get a sense of accomplishment? A spark? The energy to do it again?
Of course you do, because you have conquered your fear. And when you do it once, you’ll discover that you have the courage to do it again.
Those who have learned the rewards of being a connector most likely weren’t always good at it. In fact, they may have been as afraid as you might be about meeting someone new.
Why? Because being a connector is not inbred. We aren’t born with the skill set. We have to learn it.
Making new connections gets easier each time you do it. Get enough positive reinforcement, and you’ll begin to think and feel like a connector! And that, my friend, will change your life.
Share your successful new connections at Ann@AnnLouden.com.
A seasoned executive in the nonprofit world, Ann Louden is the founder and CEO of Ann Louden Strategy and Consulting. Recognized for her expertise in fund raising, high profile special events, and campaign planning, Ann provides counsel to chief executives, staff, and volunteer leadership.
Ann’s primary interest areas are education, health care for women and children, the arts, and adoption. As a cancer survivor, she led and was the twelve-year spokesperson for a breast cancer advocacy initiative that engaged thousands of survivors, volunteers and medical providers. With a mantra of bringing big ideas to life, Ann focuses on identifying a compelling vision and creating a goals-oriented plan for execution.
An in-demand national speaker for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, Ann is the recipient of the Steuben Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named as a CASE Laureate. She is the author of the upcoming book: From Social Courage to Connection: Lessons from Leaders Who Change and Save Lives.
You can find her at www.AnnLouden.com.