“What Am I Doing Here?”
Have you ever asked yourself this question before? Particularly when you are at a social event? It really comes down to a matter of strategy versus tactics – we’ll get into that later.
Think about it. You are at a networking event and the room is abuzz with the banter of hundreds of voices. The environment is…intimidating.
Folks are circled around each other chatting on and on and the gaps in conversation to interject are scarce. You grab a drink, nuzzle into a corner of the room, gaze out into the hubbub of the floor and ask yourself…
“What am I doing here?”
What The Books Have Failed To Teach You…
You prepared yourself! You read all about making eye-contact, smiling, and even what to say with Communications Crash Course (shameless plug :D). But despite this, the fact of the matter is that you are having a hard time engaging with others because either you’re bored, tired, or feel like an imposter in a room filled with experts.
I am here to tell you that it is NOT your fault. Because, while these articles and books may have succeeded in teaching you the tactics to use in a conversation, they rarely tell you about strategy.
Strategy Versus Tactics
Let’s define these two:
Strategy – a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim.
Tactic – a device for accomplishing an end.
In other words, a strategy is the “end” whereas the tactic is the “means to the end”. And that is an important distinction.
Getting Lost In Tactics
Let’s go back to this networking event and look at it through John’s eyes.
John enters a conversation and is focusing on making eye-contact, smiling, and saying all the right things. In fact, 100% of his focus is on these three things. But, you notice that few people are paying attention to him. What does he do? Perhaps he tries even harder to make sure his eyes, smile, and words are all perfect! But the harder he tries the more contrived he seems.
Why is that? Simple.
The tactics are being placed above the strategy!
So if we want to remedy this, we just have to make our strategy more important.
Let Strategy Be Your Guide
Let’s say instead John remembers why he is there. To get to know people and create lasting connections. Therefore his strategy would be to listen to people and find ways to connect on a personal level.
If this is the case, rather than worrying too much about whether or not he is making eye contact, he is more focused on picking up as much as he can from other people. He looks at them in the eye naturally (well, maybe with a little self-reminder) to ensure others he is listening. He smiles to encourage them to speak. Finally, the words he says are relevant to what the other people have been talking about.
It is through the strategy of connecting with others that his tactics – eye contact, smiling, and saying the right thing – are executed. His focus and priority shift to a strategic level making all of his tactical decisions flow effortlessly and naturally.
Next time you find yourself in a similar situation, let strategy be your guide instead of the tactics!