keys to networking

The keys to networking successfully when it’s outside your comfort zone

What is your gut response when you find out that there is a client event, staff party, or team boat cruise?

Some folks love to go out and mingle and seem to manage conversations effortlessly, but for others it can be something they do because they know they have to (but they don’t enjoy it or they spend the time worrying about everyone else in the room) – or they hate it!

As a leadership coach, this comes up with many of my clients for sure. We work with many professionals who find networking and schmoozing to be a stress. I hear things like:

“I know it could help my career, but I suck at it.”

“I never know what to say.”

“Isn’t it enough that I’ve been around people all day? I have to go to events on my own time, too?!”

“I like these events but I don’t know if I’m approaching them as strategically as I could or should.”

 DiSC Personality Styles

Being able to work a room is a skill – and it’s one that can make a huge difference in your career.

So why does it come so easily to some folks while others aren’t so keen or really struggle with it? It all comes down to different motivators, different stressors. At Padraig, one of the tools we use is the Everything DiSC Assessments and Guides to help our clients understand themselves and others better.

Guess what? Each behaviour style has different strengths and weaknesses – and these include how comfortable they are with social situations.

The DiSC personality styles all approach networking and social situations differently:

  • The “D” can often manage it, but sometimes find it tedious
  • The “i” thrives on it
  • The “S” can handle it if it isn’t unexpected, but worries a lot about whether others are enjoying it
  • The “C” often detests it

When you understand your own personality style and the other personality styles, it helps you realize what you can contribute to a group situation and how to make the most of what comes naturally to you. It also helps you know where you can improve or try to do things differently.

In addition to understanding your personal motivations, it also helps you learn what motivates other personality types and what to do when you approach them (which helps to break the ice and get conversation flowing in all kinds of social situations!).

To give you some idea of the kind of effective communication insights you gain from taking a DiSC assessment or participating in a DiSC workshop, here are some highlights for each of the four DiSC personality styles:

The Dominant “D”
Is usually very self-confident and likes to lead people but isn’t fond of routine and repetition. They are motivated by new challenges and thrive when they see tangible results. A “D” is not afraid to be opinionated and show authority.

The “D” leader has to be careful not to come across as argumentative or intimidating in social settings. They appreciate direct and to-the-point discussions, so do better with meaningful conversations and big-picture ideas. Rambling conversations are a challenge for a “D” to listen to attentively, but they like to focus on business and goals.

The Influential “i”
Is comfortable in situations where they might be the centre of attention and they love to be around other people. They are talkative, emotional and often full of enthusiasm. They tend to dislike conflict, especially if they will look unpopular for it and they like to motivate those around them. An “i” isn’t afraid to express an opinion and can put a positive spin on almost anything.

The “i” profile has to be careful to really listen to others (not talk over them!) and not to go overboard with excitement for new ideas. They don’t do well if they feel rejected and tend to do better with flexible situations and hate to feel restrained or controlled.

The Steady “S”
Is a good listener who is even-tempered, friendly and patient. An “S” is usually a peacemaker and nurturer in a group, watching out for everyone’s well-being. They like harmony and consensus within groups and feel best in predictable and stable situations. They like being around people but do best when they are with people they trust and in predictable environments in which they feel comfortable.

The “S” often has to work on being flexible with change and new situations. Because they value personal relationships and being agreeable so much, the “S” has to work at being comfortable expressing their own wants and needs (not always putting other people’s needs before their own!). They do best when interacting with kind and patient people who seem trustworthy and genuinely interested in them. Confrontation will make them very uncomfortable.

The Compliant “C”
Is very detail-oriented, an adept analytical thinker and a great problem solver. A “C” is thoughtful and even-tempered but can get bogged down in details. They are very motivated by information and logic and love to be in environments that are logical. They feel little need to be social and enjoy working independently. A “C” responds well to facts and detailed plans.

The “C” personality has to work on not being too critical of others and being able to let go of their need for detail when in situations that aren’t running with precise scheduling or predictable outcomes. They don’t like being criticized but need to remember that their own attention to detail often has them pointing out faults and seeming overly critical to others. The “C” does best in non-confrontational situations and takes pride in their work.

Now, let’s take theory and put it into practice.

Knowing the motivators and stressors for different types can help us to push ourselves outside of our comfort zone and reach out to others in a way that is bound to connect with their personality style.

For example, making conversation is a skill – but it’s easier when you have a hunch at what motivates different personality types and how to play to their strengths.

Conversations flow when:

  • Others feel comfortable
  • You feel comfortable
  • Everyone feels included and heard
  • There is common ground
  • Topics are interesting to everyone

It starts from being able to establish connections between people who may not know each other well or at all. If you’re introducing people, you want to establish a connection quickly. For example, if you are introducing two people, you could say something like:

“This is Jane. She’s an account manager for this Hollywood producer and

the biggest soccer fan I’ve ever met!”

“Have you met Phil? He’s our finance manager and

a huge supporter of local theatre.”

In addition to introducing names and positions, you give some detail that gives some common ground (Jane and Phil are both managers with connections to the arts) and ideas for conversation (soccer or theatre).

The more familiar you become with characteristics of the four DiSC personality styles, the easier it is to figure out what might make someone feel more comfortable in conversation and more motivated to participate in conversation. Networking and schmoozing is essentially being able to figure out what will get different people talking and feeling at ease – with you and with each other.

If we look at the brief overviews of the four personality styles, we can already see:

  • The “D” likes to be an authority and hates rambling conversations (keep stories brief and focused and ask the “D” for opinions or ideas rather than sharing your own unprompted)
  • The “i” loves to chat and enjoys being the centre of attention (ask the “i” general questions and be an active listener or share a funny story and build rapport through humour)
  • The “S” needs to feel comfortable and worries about others (be personable and remember the “S” values sincere appreciation of their kindness – thank an “S” for something they have done for your team – or genuinely take an interest in something the “S” shares in conversation)
  • The “C” isn’t fond of socializing, likes facts and detailed plans (if you hear the “C” has a favourite hobby or passion, ask the “C” to tell you what they like best about it or their advice about it – talking about something important to them is easier than making small talk)

Miss Manners would tell us all to leave politics, religion and other controversial topics out of polite conversation – and with the DiSC profiles you can see how some personalities don’t mind sharing strong opinions or creating conflict, but other personalities loathe conflict or upset. In a social/professional setting, conversation is best steered away from polarizing topics (anything too personal is not appropriate unless you are intimately acquainted!).

If you encounter a situation where the topic of conversation gets derailed and tempers are flaring, try:

  • Redirecting – “Well, as interesting as this is, we should really be talking about [anything funny or of general interest in the community or the next big event] so we can enjoy the rest of our evening.”
  • Distraction – “Oh! Is that Larry and Olivia?! I have to introduce you!” [call someone over and introduce to the group with an invitation to the tell the group about something fabulous]
  • Diplomacy – “Clearly we have some very strong opinions here. Can we agree to disagree and go check out what’s for dessert?”

The more you practice making conversation with other personality types, understand your listening style and brush up on your active listening skills, the easier it gets to network, schmooze and mingle. You will find yourself quickly guessing which personality style someone is and adapting your conversation to suit that style.

So Now What?

Now you may be wondering, “what DiSC type am I? Or what DiSC type is… my boss, my staff, Sally in accounting, etc.. We can help you with that with everything from a quick online DiSC assessment, to a short talk with one of our coaches about your results, to a full day workshop for your team.  There are many options, all of which can help you out. Give us a call (855-818-0600 x101) or or if you want results right away, click here to take the online assessment.

Coach’s Questions

Which elements of the DiSC personality styles do you recognize in yourself? Which do you recognize in others? What can you do to help make conversations easier for yourself and others? What do you want to try at the next social event you attend?

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