Service of Public and Private Personalities

July 14th, 2022

Categories: Networking, Shy, Work

Jeopardy contestant

I wonder if winner Steve Clarke’s comment on “Jeopardy” on July 12 resonated with as many others as it did me.

He’s a trial lawyer and he said that by contrast, in his personal life, he is nonconfrontational. There was a stranger using his backyard as a golf driving range recently. “It’s lucky my wife was home,” he admitted. She shooed the man off their property. He said had he been alone he might have offered the fellow lemonade.

Like Steve, I am two different people. I can be bold on behalf of clients or in other work situations otherwise, if at a friend’s party where I don’t know anyone, I’m the person taking pictures [which I love to do], passing hors d’oeuvres or washing dishes.

I welcome industry board positions that involve membership where introducing myself to strangers is part of the job. Out of such a context I anticipate someone saying the equivalent of “SO?????” to my “Hi, I’m Jeanne Byington.” It happened twice.

The first was at an event where authors were looking for publishing contacts and book agents and publishers and agents were looking for famous authors. I was a magazine editor at the time. I would have been more welcome if I’d worn a sandwich board touting I was a smallpox carrier. The second time was at the holiday gathering of a now defunct PR association. A friend was president and I went in support. I took several stabs at speaking with others but the members only wanted to catch up with friends. I was not surprised when soon after the organization shut down.

Conversely, when I enter a crowded room with the mission of finding someone for work–asking strangers if they might point out Joe Smith for example–it’s an easy task.

I went to countless “how to network” workshops until the tips became repetitive. The one that stuck with me was to arrive at an event where you don’t know a soul with a question that you are pretty sure others might answer. For example, if it’s an assemblage of PR or media people, ask if they know a moderately priced interior, headshot or event photographer. If you’re at a party you might ask: “do you know any good Italian restaurants in the east 80s?” or “Can you recommend an accountant?”

Do you have two personalities, one for work and one in personal situations? Have you merged the two? What are your foolproof networking tips?

Image by Edward Pye from Pixabay


4 Responses to “Service of Public and Private Personalities”

  1. BC Said:

    Since I no longer work wearing a white coat , name tag, etc. , I do not offer my work past as a physician upon meeting a new person as a retiree unless some one asks me. Reason: they immediately ask my opinion about a medical problem. My standard answer: “ Unless you feel like a big baby, I cannot help you, as I am a pediatrician”.

    I am very content with my favorite degree, MRS.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I love your response when someone asks for your medical opinion!

    I can’t imagine asking a doctor I just met in a social circumstance for a medical opinion or even a recommendation of a great dermatologist or dentist…. I’d be more comfortable asking a friend who seemed to be well cared for.

  3. Martha T Takayama Said:

    I understand your thinking perfectly, I always have found it easier to introduce myself or ask for information, referrals assistance or contributions for an entity, an employer, a cause or even for a friend. I do think however that it is more difficult to present a directly confrontational persona, especially as an attorney if this is not part of your personality. I have extensive experience as a legal interpreter which always means being neutral and accurately communicating that which is being said. However, when an Assistant U.S attorney for whom I worked as an interpreter suggested I become a lawyer, I felt that I would not be able to withstand the tension and hostility, theatrical feigned or genuine of court proceedings as a trial attorney. On the other hand, as an employee of the Italian Trade Commissioner’s office in Boston, with the diplomatic cushion of my job I asked for accommodations and even discounts as my boss requested and was generally successful.

  4. Anonymous Said:


    Well, apparently the successful Jeopardy player continued to be shy in personal dealings and able to communicate as one must as a trial lawyer. His backyard was big enough for a stranger to take it over to play golf!

    I think you could have done anything you wanted to–the question would be “do you want to?” I’ve written about the best speaker I’d heard over decades at a decorating workshop who refused to do it a second time. As good as he was, he so disliked the tension and stress it caused him–he was adamant. “NO.” You’d never have guessed watching him. He owned a number of paint and decorating stores and was happy doing that extremely well.

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