I have a photo taken on holiday with my aunts, uncles and cousins when I was about nine. It shows all of us together on the beach at Leysdown Holiday Camp. However, one of the children is sitting slightly apart from every else. It has always been a very telling photo for me. Someone choosing to be apart but not really desirous of it. Wanting, in fact, to be welcomed in but more familiar with where he was. And, for human beings, familiarity is what we’re often more comfortable with. Whether it is always good for us is another matter.
So, although I like social gatherings where I can be the centre of attention when I want to be, I have, in fact, always been a bit of a loner. I do indeed like my own company and thought that that meant that I was happy in my own skin. This was combined with strong feelings about injustice which has, likely, pushed me into helping people on the receiving end in our society, to help themselves. It is, therefore, no coincidence that I am fascinated by the history of the mutual self help movement in this country and have written a book about it. I have also never been very good at small talk, the day to day conversations that most people engage in. Life for me, although a great deal of fun, has always been a fairly serious business. The problem with these feelings and one’s manner as a result is that, subconsciously, people pick up on them and you stay a little on the outside. Networking, therefore, has been uncomfortable for me.
Well, a few years ago that changed, when I experienced empathy in meeting a friend of my youngest daughter. I knew that it was different because I felt his emotions. As I told my wife, “I’ve discovered empathy and it hurts. How do I put it back?”
So, why am I writing this now? Well, because recently things have changed even more. Someone who finds it very difficult to ask for help is starting to do so. Either that or people are seeing beyond the front which, I suspect, many did anyway. This seems to be having an effect. A little over a month ago, colleagues at the Professional Speaking Association (I suspect that it was Nicci and Michael, to whom many thanks are due) put my name forward to speak before a group of people who book speakers. The responses were very positive which encouraged me to contact a couple of the panel. The result has been that I am now “on their radar” and am working to get gigs because of this. I have also been invited to speak at another conference next week.
I think that this is called networking and it’s not so scary after all. Who’d have thought it?