Occasionally, you’ll meet a pushy person when you’re out networking. I’ve found there are a couple of types of people who fit into a pushy person category:
- Trying to make a sale
- Monopolizing your time
- Going too personal
Now, let’s discuss how to politely disengage these types of people.
Trying to Make a Sale
I’m not sure if they’re the worst people, but they’re up there. Some people go to networking events to try to make a sale and won’t take no for an answer.
It depends on the person you’re dealing with, but the best way to disengage this type of person is straightforward honesty. You don’t owe them an explanation, but you do owe them honesty. It is always tough in a public space to take a firm stance. There are people around you and this person who is annoying you is not taking a hint. Therefore, you basically have to treat them like a significant other you’re breaking up with on a plane. Here are some suggested lines:
“I don’t see us going forward on this.”
“No thank you. I’m not interested.”
“Sorry, that doesn’t fit into my plan.”
Rules to Disengage a Pushy Person Trying to Make a Sale
Unfortunately, people still don’t always take a hint. At which point, you may have to put your foot down or get really stern with them. I’ve encountered people like this quite frequently, and it is unfortunate. I’ve compiled a couple rules for dealing with the pushy salesperson.
- Do not make a scene. Your brand is on the line. No one wants to be a part of a controversy, even if they agree with you. If you yell, insult, or be a part of a scene, you could see a hit to your brand.
- Don’t make excuses. For whatever reason, some people can’t take no for an answer. If you give them an excuse, they’ll attempt to solve that problem to close the sale. Even excuses like “I can’t afford it” are met with some really terrible math justifying the purchase.
- Don’t say “at this time.” Seriously, that’s such a trap. Pushy salespeople hear that and will call you constantly to see if you’re ready to move forward. Don’t even imply it. Many times, I’ve had a person tell me they’ll follow up after a certain amount of time, and I’ve had to cut them off and tell them no.
- Network with a friend or colleague. It’s always nice to have someone checking in on you regularly. When I’m networking with a friend or colleague, we check in with each other every half hour or so. This is helpful to get out of those types of situations. We can easily make an excuse like wanting to introduce each other to someone we just met.
- Make notes on cards. When you meet dozens of people in one night, it’s a good idea to write short notes on a person’s card like “don’t engage” to save you from accidentally meeting them for coffee.
Monopolizing Your Time
Sometimes a person will try to monopolize your time. Most often, I encounter someone wanting to give me advice. Sometimes, I also meet people who treat the business networking event as a personal meet and greet, but I’ll address that next section.
I understand this type of person is especially problematic for women at networking events. Not to go too deep into this, but men, please stop mansplaining or hitting on women at networking events. It is incredibly obvious when you do this and it is a really bad look on you and incredibly disrespectful to the women you do it to. Seriously, stop it.
For these people, here are a few suggested breakaway lines:
“I should go make another round to see if anyone else has arrived.”
“Hold on. I think I just saw my friend walk in.”
“Bathroom break.” I love this one because who can call you out on it?
Rules to Disengage a Monopolizer
You should apply many of the same rules here as you do with the salesy person. However, this situation is unique because he or she isn’t trying to make a sale. They feel entitled to your attention. Therefore, polite excuses work. Especially if it is someone who is trying to “help” you, you can employ different strategies.
- Do not make a scene. Yes, this is the same as before. It isn’t fair because you’ve done nothing wrong. However, you still have to be conscious of how people perceive you. Why do you think networking is so exhausting for me?
- Don’t lead on the conversation. Once you’ve decided to disengage, don’t add to the conversation. Don’t ask questions. Don’t make remarks. Keep your answers short and sweet.
- Repetition. Repetition is key for those who don’t take a hint. I’ve definitely had to tell someone I needed to go multiple times in a row. “Sure, but I really do need to go over there right now.”
- If they let you, use them. If it is someone who is “saving” you, use that. Ask who you should meet at that event. Make them walk you over and make an introduction. Remind them that you can’t talk to them all night.
- Talk about things that make them uncomfortable. I don’t recommend this all the time, but go ahead and make a monopolizer uncomfortable. This is a “break glass in case of emergency” strategy, but it works. Medical procedures work well. Talk about that marathon you’re running. Discuss a topic they have no interest in at all.
- Network with a friend. A friend can save you from this one. Completely ignore the monopolizer when your friend checks in with you.
- Take notes. Again, take notes on a person’s card. A monopolizer is not a person you want to grab coffee with.
Finally, a person who gets too personal at a business networking event is a dangerous type of pushy person. Regardless of if they’re interested in friendship or romance, networking events are for business. More often than not, it is a man hitting on a woman. Again, men need to stop doing this. That’s the first thing. But while those men are figuring out how to respect others, I’ve created some tips for dealing with this type of person.
- Never go personal yourself. If someone is being too personal, you need to reply by going too business. There’s normally a level of friendliness in networking. Drop that immediately. Go strictly business. Pretend you’re the automated chat bot on your dentist’s website. If he asks what you like to do outside work, tell him you like to prepare quarterly reports.
- Network with a friend or colleague. This is a theme and is actually a later blog, but networking with a friend or colleague is a game changer.
- No excuses. Pushy people see excuses as obstacles, not a firm no. This is ridiculous to me, but I’ve witnessed it way too much to not acknowledge it. Instead of selling a product or service, he’ll be selling himself to you. Therefore, you just need to tell him no in as many ways as you can think of.
- Report creeps. As an event organizer, I would have happily banned creeps from my future events. If someone is being creepy or making you uncomfortable, tell the organizer. Tell their boss. Tell your boss. Warn everyone about their behavior. If someone is making you feel unsafe, and you have no one to turn to at the event, reach out to a friend or colleague who isn’t even there. Bring in reinforcements.
Disengaging a Pushy Person
In conclusion, pushy people hurt your success. Therefore, it is important for us to know how to disengage with them quickly and without causing a scene. These rules and suggestions are based solely on my own experiences. I know everyone has their own stories. I’d love to hear your experiences with pushy people. Above all, I’d love to hear your strategies and what works for you.
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