Monday, March 22, 2010

Guest Blogger: Marny Lifshen

I often say you will meet people in life that you have an instant connection with and it's critical not to let those opportunities pass you by.   For me today's guest Blogger Marny Lifshen is one of those people and I am truly grateful that she came into my life both as a friend and as a mentor.  Marny and I met a few years back as she was about to release her book Some Assembly Required: A Guide To Networking For Women and our hour long coffee meeting turned into a several hour brainstorming session.  I found her ideas on networking, especially for women, to be both refreshing and unique.  It was clear from our first meeting Marny and I would grow to be great great friends.

I am truly honored to have Marny share some of her words of wisdom with us.  I encourage you to check out her website at and pick up her great book at

Keep the support up – in good times and bad.

By Marny Lifshen, Author Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women

It is easy to be a good friend or a supportive colleague when someone is doing well.  After all, we all enjoy a celebratory lunch when a business associate gets a promotion and many of us use good news as an excuse to reach out to an old friend. 

But I find that the real test of a good network is when things are not so rosy.  When someone loses their job, has to sell their business, gets a divorce, or has a child who is seriously ill – that is often when they truly need the support of both professional and personal friends.  Many people don’t know how to handle situations like this – they aren’t sure how or when to reach out to their colleagues in bad times, or what to say.  I believe the important thing is that you do something, because a majority of people won’t.

I suggest five basic rules of thumb when reaching out (or running into) a colleague or friend who is going through some tough times:

1)  Don’t pretend like everything is fine or that you don’t know what is going on.  That will come across as disingenuine or insensitive, and will probably make you both uncomfortable.  It may also minimize the importance of their problems, which is disrespectful and hurtful. 

2)  Be yourself.  If you try and become ultra serious and intense, when you’re actually quite humorous and light-hearted, your efforts at sympathy and support may seem fake.  Your friend needs to know that your gesture and friendship are sincere, and if you are not acting like yourself, they may not believe you.

3)  Take your cues from them.  If you pay attention to what they are saying, how they are saying it, and their body language, you’ll know whether they really want to talk or not.  If they clearly appreciate your support, but just don’t just seem to want to talk about their problems – respect that.  And if you get the sense that they need to talk, or that they need cheering up with a fun distraction, then you’ll know how to proceed.

4)  Do more listening than talking.  This rule applies to almost any interaction, but especially when you’re meeting with someone who is struggling.  Often they simply need to vent their frustrations and fears, and lean on the shoulder of a supportive friend or colleague.  Sometimes, just listening can be the best thing you can do to help. 

5)  Keep them in the loop.  It amazes me that people will exclude people (consciously or unconsciously) from events, discussions, opportunities or information simply because they are in rough patch.  I think sometimes they do it to shield or protect these people, thinking to themselves “Oh, she’s not going to want to go to that” or “I don’t want to bother him with this.”  But often, making them feel connected, valued and an important part of the community is the best thing that we can do for their confidence and spirit.

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