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TheStreet Open House

The High Cost Of Saying 'no'

That's because you want to avoid a scene like this:

Person 1: I am a T-Rex! RAWR!

Person 2: No you're not. The T-Rex is extinct.

Person 2 rejected what Person 1 said, and the energy dropped. Instead, if you accept what's being said and build on it, the scene works a lot better:

Person 1: I am a T-Rex! RAWR!

Person 2: Yes, and that's an asteroid hurtling toward us!

I don't mention this improv tactic to convince you to sign up for improv. I mention it because “yes, and…” isn't just for improv. It's for real life, too. Imagine if I had used it at my old job:

Boss: “Is anyone willing to give a presentation at our summer leadership conference?”

Parallel-Universe April: “Yes, I'll give a presentation, and here are three ideas for topics…”

Boss: “My hero! Take the rest of the day off!” *high fives*

Had I taken that approach, I would've had many opportunities to practice and improve, gaining skills that would make me more valuable both then and in the future.

I could've honed my skills even more by joining the public speaking group Toastmasters, which met right at my office. One of my bosses was a member.

I could've been a problem-solver for my boss - someone who enthusiastically took work off her plate.

Pretty powerful. But wait, there's more…

How to get more confident saying, “yes, and…”

Apfelbaum says he “had butterflies the first dozen times” he gave a presentation. “I was an expert in online marketing, but I was still scared to death,” he says. But nowadays he's a speaker, a Google trainer, and the founder of the weekly web series GrowTime.

So I wanted to know how he did it. How did he go from a timid “yes” to an enthusiastic “yes, and…”?

Mostly, he practiced and practiced. And as he got better, he became more confident. Here are five tips and tricks he learned along the way:

  1. Start with people you know. “Everyone should know what you do,” he says, including friends, family members and business contacts. “If you're looking for a job and no one knows what you're good at, they can't recommend you.”

  2. Read, read, read. “Books are such a great resource,” he says, “and they spark new ideas.” So Apfelbaum read everything he could on public speaking, networking and cold calling. (He found books by Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracey particularly helpful.)

  3. Don't take it personally. “When you cold call and get shut down or people ignore you at a networking event, they aren't rejecting you, they're actually rejecting your process,” he says. For instance, “at my first networking event, I approached a woman to introduce myself, and she basically ignored me,” he says. Later he learned that he could've avoided that awkward moment if he had known what her body language was saying. “She was facing the other way when I approached, and she needed to be facing me for my introduction to go better,” he says.”If your process is bad, you're going to get rejected a lot.”

  4. Study yourself and others. The better you get at networking or speaking, the more confident you'll feel. For instance, when it comes to making presentations, “watch other speakers,” says Apfelbaum. And pay attention to your own habits, too. “I realized that I was using the word 'basically' over and over,” he says.

  5. Stay in touch. So many times we make a great connection with someone, and then their business card gets lost under the seat of the car. Instead, immediately after you meet someone “connect with them on LinkedIn and send a thank-you email,” he says.

“The top sales writers say that if you're out of sight, you're out of mind,” says Apfelbaum. “And I put my own twist on that: If you're out of sight, you're out of your mind.”

When he puts it like that, I realize that I do need to get out there more, to learn about networking events in my area and make more connections. “Yes, I'll attend that event, and I'll introduce myself to at least three attendees!” Baby steps, people.

How about you? What's one way you can use the “yes, and…” this month to boost your career?

You can follow Joe Apfelbaum on Twitter. He has written a (free with sign-up) ebook on networking.

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