Are you experiencing conversation? Or just chatter?

While attending several events over the last few months I absorbed some powerful lessons about socializing and networking. And ironically the lessons were taught to me by the introverts in the room — or as a by-product of my own occasional introverted tendencies.

One lesson came in the form of a question:  When interacting with others, are you in conversation –real conversation that allows you to connect? Or are you just engaged in mindless chatter?

Chatter? Or conversation?

© Andy Dean –

One introvert I conversed with at a networking luncheon told me she enjoys attending events and listening to good speakers. But because of her “social sensitivity” (my term, not hers), she prefers to stand on the fringe of the crowd until it’s time to be seated. She enjoys people-watching and observing from afar. The shrill chatter, not so much.   What’s more, by standing alone she finds she is “open” in case anyone comes over to talk to her one-on-one.  I saw sensibility in her strategy.  In fact, I happened to be the person who approached her that day and I am glad I did.  We had a lovely conversation. Turns out she is an author who writes on a subject that I find inspiring: strong, fearless women. What a gift she was in my day. And I can’t wait to read her books.

At another event I walked into the room and didn’t know a soul. Furthermore, I noticed everyone was engaged in one-on-one conversation or clumped up in closed groups. Sigh.  I was feeling rather awkward until I spotted a young woman off by herself. I went over and introduced myself. She was initially shy and anxious, but after she realized I wasn’t trying to put her on the spot (or sell her anything) she opened up.  It was another delightful conversation. She told me about her education and career path – not a smooth or straight one, but one filled with clear epiphanies.  For a woman in her 20s, she was extremely self-actualized; an “old soul.”  How refreshing it was. I’m glad I met her, too.

Finally, at a workshop I attended solo over the weekend, I was feeling introspective.  I made a point to greet a few people I knew, but I chose mindfully to go off in my own direction to find a good seat where I could view and hear the speaker easily and without distraction.   In a few moments a lovely woman sat down nearby.  After a moment or two I recognized her and she me. Turns out she was someone I had met a few years ago and had wanted to get to know better.  The chance had not presented itself — until then. And here we were in a setting where we could really converse and connect – even work together on the group exercises.  A miracle? Perhaps.

All I know is that stepping away from the crowd, honoring my own sometimes-introverted self, choosing conversation over chatter, and setting my intentions helped me attract these synchronistic connections very easily.  What about you?

Next time you attend a group event, will you be there to chatter? Or converse and connect? Will you choose to be swept into the crowd? Or will you be willing to pull away, venture out into “space,” and find true conversation and connection?
If you need a little guidance on becoming a more Intentional Networker(tm), which can help transform everyday chatter into more meaningful conversations and connections, I have a gift for you.  Three easy questions to ask yourself before you go to any social event:  1) What’s your Vision for the experience? In other words, what would “success” look like, sound like and feel like for you?  2) What are your Intentions?  In other words, what choices are you doing to make as  you prepare yourself and as you attend and experience the event?  3) What are your goals?  What specific, measurable outcomes do you have in mind?  Meeting five new people?  Learning three new things you can take back to your business or office?  Try this out and see if you don’t enjoy the event more, but also get more out of it.   And don’t forget to get (and read) my award-winning success guide The Intentional Networker:  Attracting Powerful Relationships, Referrals & Results in Business.   You’ll find it at most online book retailers and at BookPeople in Austin, TX.



12 Responses to Are you experiencing conversation? Or just chatter?
  1. Wanda Ivette
    August 21, 2012 | 6:50 pm

    I’m the kind of person who’s a loner and like to stand by the sides . When there is a lot of people around me I don’t listen and because of that I , usually , go to those events by myself and from there I usually step out with enough info , names and phone numbers to make a deeper connection eventually.

    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 9:55 am

      Wanda, thanks for this comment. If this approach works for you, keep doing it! It’s also important to know that many of us are a combination of introvert and extrovert and have different needs, moods and energy levels on any given day. Some days we may yearn to be in the mix; other days we crave a quieter, more toned-down experience. The main thing is to be intentional — purposeful, polished and productive — and do what makes you comfortable and brings you the results you desire.

  2. todd schnick
    August 21, 2012 | 7:31 pm

    people go and add to the chatter…and then wonder why they do not develop business opportunity…

    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 9:56 am

      So true. I often wonder why people attend so many events and then squander the opportunity. Seems like a huge waste of time, energy and money. Thanks for your comment, Todd.

  3. Dawn Lund
    August 22, 2012 | 12:11 pm

    Great information! Even though I am a great “chit-chatter” I always feel awkward at networking events and struggle with people who get in familiar groups and don’t acknowledge a “loner” standing by. Seems it defeats the purpose of networking in a way. I have attended events and when it’s time to sit down for lunch I make it a point to sit by someone I don’t know and order milk. It’s always a conversation starter.

    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 1:24 pm

      Thanks Dawn. You are a gifted conversationalist. I always used to rely on you to fill me in on what was going on as you were always in-the-know. Love your milk story!

  4. Stefani Zellmer
    August 22, 2012 | 12:33 pm

    What I like about this post is that it sends the message that everyone has her own style of networking. As a self-diagnosed introvert, I can admit that my social anxiety comes from fear of being judged or that I’m “doing it wrong.” Knowing that there is no right or wrong way to socialize at these types of things is very helpful.

    I’ve grown more comfortable with networking at these things, but I do find the competitive chatter exhausting. Knowing this about myself, I try to pace myself by shopping the tables alone or just spending some quiet time watching and listening. And being okay with that.

    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 1:22 pm

      When you are networking with intention — your intention — you are not doing it wrong. And don’t let the extroverts, movers-and-shakers, or workers-of-rooms tell you otherwise. I appreciate this thoughtful and reflective comment, Stefani.

  5. SueAnn Wade-Crouse
    August 22, 2012 | 1:15 pm


    I just finished a very interesting book about introverts by Susan Cain, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t stop Talking.” Fascinating, especially for us gals who have to push themselves “out there.” So your conversation/chatter post was particularly timely for me. Thanks.

    I tend to suffer from sensory overload in the midst of chatter, and prefer the one-on-one, focused conversations. Until I read “Quiet” I felt a little alone in that characteristic. Your book, “Intentional Networker” did, however, help me learn how to harness those moments more meaningfully, and for that I am thankful.

    The young woman that you spoke to will probably never forget that you engaged her in a gentle way, Patti. Good for you.


    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 1:21 pm

      Thank you, SueAnn. I think we women tend to think we have to do all the talking or that just “being” at an event isn’t enough. Not so. Sometimes that’s where you discover the good stuff. Or it discovers you. (I can’t wait to read Quiet I’ve heard it’s a wonderful book. You’re the third person who has pointed it out to me. Bingo! It goes on my list ASAP!)

  6. Dianna Amorde
    August 22, 2012 | 2:47 pm

    Patti, I love how your post gives all of us breathing room to approach a networking event in our own way. And, the feedback you’ve received so far has been just as enjoyable to read. I especially like your reply to SueAnn and the reference to letting the good stuff at an event “discover you.” It’s a reminder that we don’t have to do all of the work ourselves. We need to trust how we’re inspired to be is just right for our ‘good stuff’ to find us. Thank you!

    • pattid
      August 22, 2012 | 3:56 pm

      Thank you, Dianna. Breathing room… What a concept! Going to a networking or social event and being uncomfortable or feeling smothered or overwhelmed is no fun. Relying on the work we’ve done in advance; trusting our intution and intentions is enough.

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