LJ writes: I am 28, I have a good reputation and a strong network of professional contacts and happy clients but I find when I am networking in a male gathering, I disappear. I can be in the middle of a conversation and one man will start talking over me to another, or answers I give in a group are ignored. It feels like an old boys' club in which I have been dismissed as a “bit of totty”. What can I do?
FP answers: I can understand as I experienced something similar when I started out nearly 20 years ago. It does feel like the people around you are behaving badly and the fault is theirs. To an extent, many (often older) men can be patronising to women, in all professions, not just ours. Sorry chaps – there are exceptions, I agree.
But you can only control yourself so you must do what you can to make the difference. Have you ever noticed how like attracts like? It happens with people and experiences. Notice how your friends reflect many aspects of you in terms of your interests and outlook on life. Notice (with others, if you cannot with yourself) how the same experiences in terms of relationships or work issues are often repeated.
You have the power to change what you want, in this and other respects in your life, by changing your frame of reference. If your experience is that you disappear when you are in a gathering of professional men, at some level you now expect this to happen. Unsurprisingly, this is what you get. To alter the pattern, you have to first notice it (which you have done), then alter your expectation. It sounds easy – the tricky bit is that you have to truly believe the result that you want is possible.
The best way I have found to do this is through visualisation. Take time to imagine that, when you enter a room full of professional men, you feel completely comfortable. Feel good about your technical knowledge, your experience, your clients, the ideas you have to offer people, how you look and communicate. See yourself being noticed and listened to and feel good about this too.
Observe yourself being drawn instinctively to the people with whom you have the best rapport. Get into this exercise in as much detail as possible. Think back to any networking event which went well in the past and how this felt. Get very enthusiastic about the whole idea. Live it in your imagination, just as you might if you were going taking part in a sporting event. Run the tape in your head over and over until it feels real. Then it is the next logical step in your experience. Let me know what happens.
AC writes: I think a major problem for many people, including myself, is getting the balance right between running a successful practice and having a successful relationship outside work. My business has survived 30 years, which I suppose is a form of success, but my relationship is a true blessing. What are your views?
FP replies: I think one of the major problems is what we define as success. Success is usually defined through making comparisons. I believe we all experience success differently because it is simply whatever makes us happy.
So, if you are comfortable ticking along at work because it gives you more time and energy for the thing that really matters to you (your relationship), that is fine. Do not beat yourself up for not doing as well as the next person professionally. You do not have to justify yourself to anyone or feel guilty – it only diminishes your enjoyment of other things.
This is not to say you cannot have a happy and fulfilling relationship and a successful working experience – some do and others would like to. But you will need to be very focused and envisage the end result clearly.
Inevitably, there will be imbalances along the way which your relationship or work will need to accommodate but, as long as you remain clear about what you want, the balance can be regained. In fact, life seems is a process of constant rebalancing.
Do not feel you have to know exactly how to get there – you can start anywhere. By staying focused on the end result, the way will unfold. You may even surprise yourself and find the result is better than you expect.
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