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by Jon Bradshaw | January 28, 2016

Jonathan Bradshaw, Meetology LabIn most situations, our mental state affects how we perform, and this is undoubtedly the case when business networking, too. Here are three ways you can use psychology to reduce nerves and feel confident, positive and assured.

1. Think positively

American Sociologist Robert K. Merton coined the phrase "self-fulfilling prophecy" after undertaking research that indicated how a belief can affect our behavior in such a way that our expectation becomes a reality.
In the context of business networking, be aware of unhelpful thoughts such as "I can't network," "I always screw up" or "I always get nervous around people." Psychology suggests that these sabotaging thoughts are more powerful that you might think. Once aware of them, try to see them for what they are -- just thoughts -- and replace them with positive, helpful beliefs.

2. Beware of your posture

Numerous psychologists have observed how strongly our emotions are linked to our physical stature. For example, Amy Cuddy's popular TED talk highlights how just standing in a certain way can affect our feelings and behaviors, as well as levels of hormones such as testosterone and cortisol.

The learning here is that your emotions follow your psychology, so, if you are not feeling confident, simply changing your physical stance to one that you would have if you were (e.g., head high, shoulders back, feel shoulder width apart) can have a powerful effect, as psychology suggests your emotions will begin to match your posture.

3. Use an anchor

By an anchor I mean an external influence that grounds us in a particular emotional state. Examples often are unconscious, such as a piece of music that takes us back to a certain time in our lives, or the perfume/cologne of our first love that brings memories of them flooding back.

We can use the fact that our brain links strong emotions to things like smell or sound to our advantage. Find a piece of music or a smell that grounds you in an emotion that suits you best for networking -- calm, confident and relaxed are ones that audiences often cite. Over time, listening to the song or inhaling the scent while consciously engaging in these emotions should create a neurological link -- or an anchor -- between the two.

Jonathan Bradshaw is the CEO of the Meetology Lab, which helps maximize personal and professional performance by using cutting–edge psychology to empower people with exceptional interpersonal communication skills.