Thursday, August 28, 2008

How not to network; or, how to get people to like you.

Photo by bluebetty

Recently, I had a fascinating interaction with a woman at a networking event I attend with some frequency. It was the first time we had met, and she was sitting near me at one of the tables as I had just started a conversation with someone else. As has occasionally happened, when the woman I was conversing with heard that my business name was the zen kitchen, she assumed I was a personal chef and got very excited about the possibility of having someone to plan meals for her. Amused, I explained what I actually did, and the fact that one of the things that I love about my business name is that people hear it and immediately ask me "ooh, what's that?" 

Without skipping a beat, the other woman sitting near me, who I'd known all of about 5 minutes, told me that my name was confusing. She also mentioned that, as a Feng Shui practitioner, one of the principles of Feng Shui is that if your business name is confusing, "your business will never take off."

After going over a couple of potential responses in my head, I decided on, "Thank you for your feedback, but I've been doing this for three years, and things seem to be going pretty well."

Mind you, this wasn't the first time I had witnessed someone express confusion over the name of my business. The reason I chose this name, and stay with this name, is because it's a very good representation of who I am as a business owner, strategist and designer, and because frankly, I get many more people who love my business name than I do people who don't get it. But what struck me about this particular interaction was the fact that here was a woman I'd barely met, at an event where the point is to make friends and business contacts, and she's literally telling me that my business will "never take off" because of my business name. Why would someone think that's appropriate?

The point is this: expressing an opinion is one thing. Insulting someone is another. Telling someone that their business is going to fail is a completely new ball game, and one that should NEVER be attempted when the goal is to make solid connections.

1 comment:

Zilya said...

wow, it's amazing how some people can get on with such a lack of social skills... I recently started interacting with a fellow consultant in a related field, both of us are working for the same software company right now. In fact he's something of a local tech podcast "personality"... many of his interactions toward me, (copied to our shared client of course), seem intended to miss the point of something i've been saying, and then say something rude and insulting about me to the client. Why he thinks this should be a winning strategy in the long run is beyond me, it's pretty transparent competition and one-upsmanship, and only makes those of us who witness it (the client included, who i have developed an excellent relationship with over several years) question his social abilities and judgement. Sigh.