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Posted on Sun, Oct 28, 2012 : 6 a.m.

Look to the wallflowers and make them special

By Greg Peters

"Oh, him? He's no one special."

As a networker and a human being, I'm not sure we could say something more calculated to cut someone to the core. Could you imagine someone thinking that about you? Especially if it were someone you admired, the effect would be pretty devastating.

Doing what I do I am constantly reminded of the importance of focusing on other people. Two examples stand out in my memory.

The first was from a talk Shawne Duperon presented at the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti Regional Chamber a couple of years ago. During her speech, she talked about looking for the person in the room who the others seem to be avoiding.

Maybe they're dull. Maybe they're pushy. Whatever the reason, as good networkers, we should make it our goal to focus our attention on them. She says it's amazing how these people will suddenly transform just because someone is actually paying attention to them.

The second reminder came about when I was reading Keith Hafner's blog. He was writing about how, in dealing with troubled kids, sometimes it just takes one person to pay attention and value them for them to really turn their lives around.

The funny thing is, the folks who most need our help in a networking situation do tend to be the ones who aren't included in conversation. They're the ones standing off to the side. They're the ones who don't know who to talk with or what to say. They're also the ones who might not come back next time if someone doesn't rescue them.

And they're likely to be the ones most grateful if you do.

So, maybe the next time we go to a networking event, we should adapt our normal goals just a little bit. Instead of just "meeting two people," perhaps we could "make two uncomfortable people feel more welcome and help them be a part of the group."

Who knows? They might just end up joining the group in hopes of establishing a deeper relationship with us.

Greg Peters, founder of The Reluctant Networker LLC, writes, speaks and coaches about good networking practice. For more tips that can help your connections count, go to