Tamara is a 29-year-old freelance destination-wedding planner. She left her job as an administrative assistant at a large event planning company to start her own business. During her time at the company, she made valuable contacts in the hospitality industry with hotel managers, caterers, travel agents, airline personnel, photographers, videographers, florists, bridal consultants, disc jockeys, bands, etc. She felt confident she could make it on her own.
When she started her business, Tamara did not fully realize that she had to develop trusting business relationships with the bride and groom and their respective parents and all of the vendors who would be providing the services.
She did not feel confident at the thought of working with all these people. She also felt uneasy thinking about working in overseas venues.
Tamara was fortunate and got a referral from a former colleague. This would be Tamara’s first client. When Tamara’s friend told her about the referral, Tamara’s brain went into overdrive and she felt nervous, to say the least. She remained in this stirred up state right up until the time she met face-to-face with the prospective client.
Her anxiety led to what I call the Look Out Syndrome. The Look Out Syndrome occurs when you are in a situation with another person and you focus your attention on the other person’s body language, facial expressions, or general demeanor instead of listening to what is being said. Often, your evaluation of these non-verbal cues is incorrect and usually negative. Most importantly, you imagine the other person is thinking negative thoughts about you.
Tamara fear of rejection was overwhelming. Not only was Tamara scanning for danger by looking out, she also questioned herself, “Will I get the sale?” “Am I qualified?” “What do they think of me?” Now more doubts about her confidence started creeping into her head. Tamara said to herself, “Is the look on the other person’s face saying he doesn’t want to work with me?” This is called negative self-talk. As a result she didn’t hear most of what the prospective client wanted. Not good.
Here’s another way to understand the Look Out Syndrome:
I am looking at you looking at me
I am wondering what you’re thinking about me.
What a mess. When you experience The Look Out Syndrome and you’re not listening, you don’t say what you want to because you’re too busy trying to figure out what the other person is thinking. Can we attribute Tamara’s case of Looking Out to inexperience? Immaturity? No self-control? Probably none of these.
Tamara was scanning the prospective client so intensely that she asked the same question three times. Clearly, Tamara’s thinking brain was offline. She was in a reactive mode and her emotions took over.
What happened? The prospective client did not hire Tamara.
Tips to prevent the Look Out Syndrome
Look at the other person, not into them. Focus on the color of their eyes, the color of their hair, or any other feature. Focusing on physical features will calm your brain so your thoughts stay focused in the present. Then there is no room to think what they’re thinking about you.
Listen. This is probably the easiest thing in the world to say and the most difficult thing in the world to do. What is listening? How do you listen? How do you know if you’re being listened to? Look online for tutorials that teach listening skills for business people.
Turn that frown upside down. I’m a big fan of faking it – to a point. Pretend to be brave when you’re anxious. Try it and you might feel more self-assured. Fake being interested in other people when you’re feeling low. See what happens to you.
Take a timeout to calm yourself. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Communication, “. . . people stressed from work did not feel any more relaxed after they played video games or watched television. They often felt even worse.” It has been observed by some teachers of psychology and neuroscience, that if you’re feeling stirred up or reactive, it takes approximately 20 minutes of positive self-talk and breathing to get back into your thinking brain,. In business situations, I generally leave the situation for a few minutes and take a restroom or coffee break. The short time away is enough for me to take a few deep breaths, screw on a smile, and resume my discussion.
Think business at all times. Your job is to build business relationships, not make friends. You don’t want new friends; you want customers or clients. If you focus on understanding and satisfying the business needs of customers and clients, you’ll be able to keep personal interests out of the equation. I’m not saying you should skip informal small talk and jump into business talk. You need a way to break the ice and small talk in a good way to do it.
Use a Cheater. Write an outline of key talking points before your meeting. Take notes and keep to your script (as best as possible). Don’t forget to breathe.
For more ideas on how to build business relationships, go to criticalconnectionsbook.com.