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Why is it harder to network with those we know (or even love)?

Sometimes it’s hard to network through our friends and family because the stakes seem higher.

I met the world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. I was calm, cool, and collected when we shook hands and chatted after his concert at Ravinia. He told me I had nice hands (as a cellist, it was not uncommon for other players to comment on the length of my fingers as an asset) and encouraged me to keep playing. He was incredibly gracious and even joyful.

I met Stephen King at a play in Chicago. He was attending to see Gary Sinise in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. He waited in the lobby after the show to see his friend, just like any other attendee. He was normal, dare I say —uncreepy.

I was good at rationalizing these encounters and seeing them as people, needing their own space and waiting for them to approach me (if they wanted to), interacting with them in a calm, congenial manner when the opportunity arose. Yet when I met the local Coupon Queen, I was a hot mess.

Yep, you read that right.

World famous musicians and writers = cool. Local Coupon Queen = lost it.

In the early years of motherhood, trying to budget carefully for groceries, I followed the blog of a Chicago-area Mom who posted grocery deals. I was in a local super market, but I didn’t expect to see the Grocery Deals Blogger in real life. Yet there she was — right in front of me in line. I gripped the handles of the cart and half yelled/half gasped “JILL CATALDO!” way - too - loud.

I froze.

She smiled and said WORDS (I don’t even remember what she said, too star struck). So WHY was I able to keep it together in some situations and not that one?

It’s so much more personal when it’s someone on the fringe of your inner sanctum. I spent time with that coupon blog every single week. I associated her name with taking care of my family and strong stewardship of our household budget. All of that gratitude and all of those familial associations were wrapped up in that encounter.

I see a similar freeze frame when some job seekers don’t want to bother their inner circle.

They don’t want to risk disrupting a treasured relationship or fear losing esteem. Yet they don’t consider that reaching out may actually strengthen the relationship.

  • Your friend or family member could be flattered that you trust them enough to ask for help or advice.

  • Asking for help demonstrates maturity and self-awareness, which may even increase their respect for you.

  • You don’t have to feel indebted. Presumably, you would offer to help if the situation was reversed.

No matter how the ask or outreach unfolds, continue the conversation.

Even after my supermarket freakout experience, Jill — aka the Super Coupon Queen—graciously interacted with my questions online and treated me like a normal person. despite all evidence to the contrary.


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