Business Network International: How Networking Can Build Vital Business Relationships With Dr. Ivan Misner

Business Network International or BNI is the global leader of referral marketing. Dr. Ivan Misner, the man behind the organization, shares his leadership and networking skills with Dr. Diane Hamilton. Dr. Misner talks about the training offered in BNI that focuses on having networking success. In this episode, he highlights what real networking is all about, including the power of building relationships in developing referrals and sales. With his book, Who’s In Your Room, he shares how the quality of your life greatly depends on the people who surround you. Find out more about Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Misner’s conversation as they dive deeper into building better relationships and avoiding benign neglect.

TTL 701 | Business Network International

We have Dr. Ivan Misner here. He is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI. He is a New York Times bestselling author and he has a book. I’m excited to talk to him about that. We are going to talk to Dr. Misner.

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Business Network International: How Networking Can Build Vital Business Relationships With Dr. Ivan Misner

I am here with Dr. Ivan Misner who is the Founder and Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. It was founded in 1985. The organization has more than 9,400 chapters throughout every populated continent in the world. In 2019 alone, BNI generated almost 12.3 million referrals, resulting in $16.7 billion worth of business for its members. I’m sure you’ve seen Dr. Misner’s work. He has a PhD and is a New York Times bestselling author. He’s written 24 books and one of them is Who’s In Your Room?. He’s a columnist for It’s so nice to have you here, Ivan.

Diane, thank you so much. I appreciate you inviting me.

I was looking forward to it. I’m very interested in networking and knowing how to communicate within groups and different things that we have a lot of common interests. Having worked in sales for many decades, I know a lot of people aren’t great networkers but you are. You’ve received a ton of awards for what you’ve done. I saw you’ve been named Humanitarian of the Year by the Red Cross. You are the recipient of the John C. Maxwell Leadership Award. The list goes on and on. I’m fascinated and I wanted to start with BNI because it’s an interesting organization. A lot of people have ideas of how networking works and how it doesn’t work. I found it fun to watch some of your videos. You had talked about four main styles of networkers: the go-getter, the promoter, the nurturer and the examiner. I’m curious which one you are.

I’m a go-getter. That would relate to a high-D behavioral profile. I’m a high-D, high-I, low-S, low-C profile for the DISC systems, which that is based on. It’s a classic entrepreneurial profile.

I came out very high on the D too. When I was reading this, I wondered if you did correlate it with DISC. You’ve done a lot in your life. Before we go on to say some of the stuff that you are working on like your book and some of the other things, can you give a little background on what led you to create BNI, which is Business Network International?

I started it many years ago. I had gone to a lot of networking organizations and a lot of the ones that I went to were just mercenary. I believe them and I felt like I had been slimed. Everyone was trying to sell to me. I hated going to those. I then went to these others that were social. It was happy hour and outdoors and no business has been done. I didn’t like either of those. I started BNI and I’d like to say I had this vision of an international organization, but I wanted one group because I was a business consultant. My doctoral work is in organizational behavior, closely related to what your work is in. I needed referrals. I created one group to help me get referrals, which snowballed amazingly. What I wanted to do with it was not have it so mercenary, but have it focused on business and have it be totally social but have it relational. Merge business with relational and the glue that would hold it together is our principle core value of giver’s gain. If you want to get business, you have to be willing to give business to other people. That’s why we grew exponentially over the years.

That’s unbelievable growth. I was reading about some of the requirements if you wanted to be part of BNI. You don’t have a lot of competitors in the room. You have one of each kind of person. Can you explain that?

It’s one person per professional category. There might be a number of attorneys who have specialties. There might be a commercial real estate agent and a residential real estate agent. Your direct competition is not sitting in the room, which makes it nice because you can talk about your business, go in-depth and talk about how you stand out and what you do and not worry about your competitors looking over your shoulder. It limits the size of the group. Some of our groups get up to 100 members, but the statistical mean is under 30 in terms of the average chapter size. In 2019, we passed over twelve million referrals that generated $16.7 billion in business. That is twice as much as the gross domestic product for the country of Liechtenstein. How cool is that that it could generate more business than a small country? I’m looking for a bigger country in 2020. I think it’s pretty awesome.

How often do they meet? I’m curious about the details. I don’t want to spend our whole time on BNI, but I’m very fascinated with that and a lot of people reading probably are too.

They meet every week, every chapter. We’re up to almost 9,500 groups. Every time you blink, it goes up. We literally have 9,500 meetings every week all around the world.

Are they day or night?

They’re all over the place. Most of the meetings are in the morning. Some are in the afternoon, a few are in the evening, but not too many because you’re competing with family time. I would say 3% or no more than 5% of our chapters meet in the evening.

It’s tough when you have a lot going on. It’s almost a challenge to find time to do it at all. I’ve been thinking of the networking events I’ve gone to. It seems like in a lot of networking groups, everybody’s selling. There are no buyers in the room. How are you changing that? You’re saying that you’re giver’s gain. You have to give up something to get something. What kinds of things are people giving up and what kinds of things are they getting?

First of all, you hit the nail on the head about most networking groups. Most people use networking as a face-to-face cold calling opportunity. They’ll meet you and they’ll say, “Diane, my name is Ivan. We should do business.” They jumped right into trying to do business and that’s a huge mistake. Instead, what you have to do is build relationships with people. It’s one of the reasons why BNI meets every week because you can’t build an effective relationship with people unless you are meeting with them regularly and developing that connection and that relationship. We don’t recommend that you show up at the first meeting and people start giving you referrals. We tell people, “When you join, you’ve got to give it time.”

People have to know you and trust you before they give you any referrals because when you give a referral, you give a little bit of your reputation away. If you give a good referral, it enhances your reputation, but if you give a bad referral, it hurts your reputation. I try to train people that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about cultivating relationships with people. As you do that and you trust that they’re going to do a good job, then you should give them referrals. Help them in some way by giving them referrals. When you give people referrals in a networking group, it will come back to you. That’s the philosophy of giver’s gain. If I give you referrals, you’ll give me referrals as well. It’s based on the concept of the Law of Reciprocity.

TTL 701 | Business Network International
Business Network International: Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It is about cultivating relationships with people.


You mentioned it takes some time. I imagine every once in a while you’d get people in the group who maybe nobody wants to give referrals. I was thinking it was Groucho Marx who says something like he wouldn’t be part of a club who would have him as a member. If you think about it, there are some people that maybe don’t fit in. Is there a natural way of weeding out who fits and who doesn’t?

Yes. Most of the members who come in are invited in by somebody who knows them. Not all, but the majority come from somebody who knows them. That’s the first screen process. The second is there is application and membership committee review. The membership committee reviews every new applicant. You can’t just show up with a check and join. You have to go through the application membership committee. If there are problems like you’re not providing a quality product or service, the membership committee also has full authority to remove or to open up that classification to somebody else. In other words, to ask that person to leave. There are processes in place to help ensure the quality of membership.

You’ve done an amazing job of growing that. Did it surprise you with the success that it had? Did you foresee it would be this size?

I did but not the first year. When I started BNI, I just needed referrals. What happened was somebody came to me and said, “Would you help me open up my own group because I can’t join my classifications representative?” I told her no. I said, “This isn’t what I do. I’m a business consultant.” She said, “That is consulting. You’re helping me build my business.” “That’s a stretch but okay.” The next group of people came to me and asked if I’d open up more and then the next one. I started in January of 1985 and by December, I had twenty chapters by accident.

For many years, I have taken time off between Christmas and New Year to reflect and think about, “Where do I want to be in five years? Where do I want to be in ten years? How was last year compared to my plan?” That year, it’s like, “What the heck just happened?” That was not part of my plan at all. That’s when it hit me that we don’t teach this in colleges and universities anywhere in the world, just like we don’t teach emotional intelligence, which is your area of expertise. We don’t teach social capital and business networking. If we taught people how to do it and provided the system to make that happen, and I had to hone that system and make it even better, this could be scalable. By early 1986, I thought that it might be possible someday to have 10,000 chapters. I remember one of the first people I said that to looked at me and he put his arm on my shoulder and he said, “It’s good to have goals, Ivan.” I thought, “I think it’s possible,” and here we are at 9,500 groups.

When I was an MBA Program Chair and some of the stuff we thought about teaching in the universities and the courses that I worked with, we talked about the importance of soft skills and a lot of these things. You’re talking about a system. I’m curious if you still teach. Did you write courses for universities to incorporate this at all?

I taught a course at Cal Poly University in Pomona on business networking. Most of the courses I taught were in organizational behavior and management theory. Most universities don’t want this. As a matter of fact, the business school where I taught for sixteen years would not have me teach a course on business networking. It was an industrial psychology class in the liberal arts school that had me teach the course on social capital and business networking.

That is interesting and I’m not surprised because I’ve seen how it’s so hard sometimes to get some of these things aligned. Some of the things that we could be teaching in the university and K-12 in general are the soft skills. Everything falls into that category. It’s hard to put your finger on where to place these things. Like you, I still teach a lot of organizational behavior and management theory courses. I think we need more of that. Your books have covered a lot of things. If people haven’t learned them in universities, they can learn them from your books. You’ve got a book, Who’s In Your Room?. I’m excited to talk about that because I want to know the room. What does that concept even mean? Can you start there?

We started by talking about networking. For the audience, this book is not about networking but in a way, it’s all about networking because it’s about relationship building. That’s what this book is about. The concept is about the secret to creating your best life through the relationships you have. Here’s the concept of the room. Imagine that you live your life in one room and that one room has only one door. That one door is an enter-only door so that when people come into your room or into your life, they’re there forever. You can never get them out.

How many square feet are we talking?

It’s a really big room. Luckily, it’s a metaphor. Diane, if you were true, would you have been more selective about some of the people you let into your life?


[bctt tweet=”People have to know you and trust you before they give you any referrals.” via=”no”]

Everybody says that. Our question to the reader was, why aren’t we more selective about who we bring in? I would argue that it is more than a metaphor and here’s why. I want you to think about somebody that you got out of your life because this is what people say to me. They’ll say, “The room concept is nice but it’s not accurate because I can get them out of my room. I can get them out of my life.” Diane, I’d like you to think about somebody that you got out of your life. If you’re reading this, I want you to think about somebody that you have gotten out of your life. I want you to think about why you wanted them out of your life. I want you to think about what they did when they were in your life and why you wanted them out of your life. I’m not going to ask you the name of that person, Diane. Do you have somebody?


The thing is if they’re still in your head, they are still in your room. I want you to take your right index finger and put it on your right temple, the right side of your head. I want you to take your left index finger and put it on the left side of your head. Everything in between is your room. We interviewed Dr. Daniel Amen who did the PBS specials on neuroscience. He’s a neuroscientist and psychiatrist. He’s a friend of mine and I interviewed him about this whole concept of relationships. One of the things he said that I thought was interesting was that when you have a personal relationship or professional relationship with somebody, their fingerprints are all over your brain. They’re there for the rest of your life. There are things that you can do to deal with those memories and to deal with those past relationships but they’re there. You have to be more selective about the kinds of people that you let into your room. That’s the room concept, which is unique and a different way of considering the process of who you let into your life.

It’s interesting in terms of networking because a lot of people would think the more people, the more opportunities you have. Is it about relationships or connections?

When I teach people about networking, there’s a concept that I use called the VCP process: Visibility, Credibility, Profitability. Visibility is they know who you are and they know what you do. You know who they are and you know what they do. Credibility is where someone knows who you are. They know what you’re doing and know you’re good at it. Profitability is where they know who you are, know what you do and know you’re good at it. They’re willing to give you referrals because of that relationship. I would say that people are in your room when you hit credibility. When you’re in visibility, they’re not necessarily in your life. You know who they are, but you don’t necessarily have a relationship with them. That’s your opportunity to pick and choose. That’s your opportunity to use what we call your doorman.

Everybody needs a doorman. I’m not suggesting that you go out and hire a doorman who walks around with you and stops people from getting close. It’s a metaphorical doorman. It’s your conscious and subconscious mind. We talked about this in the book. You can call it whatever you want. You can call it your guard or your bouncer. If you’re in California, you can call it your doorperson, whatever you want to call this person. It’s you having a conversation with yourself about whether this person is a good fit in your life. The doorman is your conscious and subconscious mind where you’re having a conversation about whether this person fits or can connect with you effectively. That’s when you would move from visibility to credibility. That’s where they then become part of your life. We don’t talk about the VCP process in the book, but that’s how it is.

We need to build a little empathy and see this from other people’s perspectives. That ties into my next book which is going to be about perception. All this stuff is very interesting to me because there’s a lot that goes on. You talk about what goes on when you put your fingers on your head. I touch on a lot of that in my work with curiosity because we tell ourselves a lot that can talk us out of being curious. When I researched it, I found four things that keep us from being curious. It was fear, assumptions, technology and environment. We’re talking about assumptions of the kinds of things that we say to ourselves. Do you think it’s hard to weed out people who cause us stress or time-wasters or whatever it is the reason that we shut them out of our lives?

TTL 701 | Business Network International
Business Network International: While you can’t have a life of balance, you can reframe it to understand that it is possible to have a life of harmony.


No, I don’t. It’s reasonably easy but you have to be conscious of the process. In order to be conscious of the process, the first thing you have to do is get good with your values. You have to know what your personal values are. What’s interesting is I’ve done this. What I have done is I’ve said to people, “Give me your top seven personal values.” It’s like watching a deer in the headlights. They look at you like, “What?” I said, “What are your top seven personal values? Values that you hold dear to you.” They’re like, “Honesty.” “That’s great. Give me six more.” There’s none. They don’t know. The conversation that you need to have with your doorman is, “Does this person have values that are congruent with mine?” They don’t have to be the same, but they can’t be incongruent. They can’t be dissonant. They have to be resonant.

I’m not a musician but I’ve seen this done where you have two pianos in a room. On piano A, somebody hits the middle C key and on piano B, somebody pushes the sustain pedal. In the second piano, the string hums by hitting the first piano. That’s resonance. It is physics. It’s also behavioral. When you have a resonant relationship with someone, your values resonate with their values. They don’t have to be the same, but they resonate with each other. That’s the relationship that your doorman should open the door, should allow those people into your life, into your room. It’s the people who have values that are dissonant with yours, that is incongruent with yours, that you don’t want to build a relationship with. That means it takes time. You can’t meet somebody once and know this person is perfect. This person is who I want. You’ve got to build a relationship with them and make sure that it’s a good fit.

In the book, we have instruments that you can use to figure out what your values are. We have links online, but just go to the internet and you can find lots of values, instruments that you can take to figure out what your values are. Here’s a good technique to start the process. If I have to do the book over, I’m going to do a second edition of the book. I’m going to flip the sections of the chapter. I do this after I talk about values. Next time I’m going to do this before I talk about values and then it’s deal-breakers. When I ask people what their deal breakers are, they knew it immediately. They can tell me what a deal breaker is. I am going to put you on the spot with this. In terms of a relationship with somebody else, give an example of a deal-breaker for you. You don’t want to have a relationship with somebody who has X.

Time-wasters kill me.

For me, it’s people who are dripping with drama. We all have drama. I’ve got drama, but it’s the people who their life is always full of drama and it hit me. You could also have values as a couple and deal-breakers as a couple. My wife and I have been married for many years. We have a deal-breaker that we have with other couples that we may have a relationship with. We want to hang out with other couples who both love and respect each other. If they don’t treat each other in a loving way, in a respectful way, we don’t hang with them. I’ve been married for many years. I may not always be as respectful or as loving as I could be. For the most part, we want to hang out with people that treat each other lovingly and respectfully. That’s a deal-breaker for us and it’s congruent with our values. Start with deal-breakers, then figure out your values. As you are meeting people, you have that conversation with your doorman. Is this somebody that’s got the values that are congruent with mine?

I had a similar conversation with someone about how the more you know someone, the more people let down their guard and tell you more. You then have more likelihood of not liking what you find out about each other. Do you find that that’s the case?

Yes, no question. That’s why I say when I talked about networking, it’s more about farming than it is about hunting. I would apply that to relationship building, which networking should be about. Here’s another thing. The older I get, the less I believe in words and the more I believe in behaviors. Forget about the words that people tell you. Hear them but observe their behaviors because their behaviors are more indicative of their values than their words. One of my coauthors, Rick, he was going to have a business relationship with some gentlemen who he thought would help his business. He went out to meet with him and he talked about family values and family was so important. Instead of going to his home to meet his family, they went out to a bar. He wanted to have all the drinks, then the guy wanted to go to a gentleman’s club. Rick is like, “Really? Where’s the family value? I’d like to meet your family.” He said, “No, thanks. I’ll pass.” He didn’t get into business with him because it wasn’t congruent with Rick’s values. That’s an extreme example of the thing I’m talking about.

I see it all the time. I had somebody I worked with who was one of those guys that’s hitting on women type of thing. I saw one of his social media posts was all family first and it’s hard to read that. Everybody has this false sense of who they are online. If you’re meeting people through social media, how do you determine if you’re letting a positive or negative person in your room? Maybe it’s some people you’re meeting not locally.

Most of the people that I do business with, I have met at least once. If I’m going to do business with somebody online, I’ll talk to other people who’ve done business with them before I start working with them. I’m a believer in social networking. I’m all over Facebook. I’ve got over 250,000 followers on social media. I’m active on social media but to me, it’s not either-or, it’s both-and. Social media to me is a great way of staying connected with people that I have relationships with. It’s not how I want to find new business relationships, it’s how I want to maintain ongoing business relationships. That’s how I use social media.

As you’re talking about letting people into your room, we’re talking about family members and friends. What about your leaders or the people with whom you have to interact? Are we back to a relationship is not necessarily as much as connections, not as deep? Do you consider your leaders and people who you work for part of that group?

Unfortunately, they’re in your life. Your boss is in your life if you have a boss. Family members are oftentimes in your life. A boss is a little trickier to deal with, but a coworker and even a family member. One of the strategies that we have is this concept that they may be in your life but their baggage doesn’t have to be. Their baggage can stay out. I’ll give you two examples if you’d like. They’re the opposite ends of the spectrum on how to deal with people. The first one is Rick and the second one is my other coauthor, Stewart. Rick’s mother passed away. When she was alive, he tells the story that she was very toxic. She had a very difficult life and he understood why she was toxic, but she was toxic and angry. He would call her every Sunday. One of his values is his family. He would call his toxic family member every week, it was his mom. He would hang up so upset because she would go on a rant talking about his brothers and sisters.

[bctt tweet=”Life is not a scale. It’s not all balanced. It’s both more of a juggling act and a balancing act.” via=”no”]

One day he said to her, “Mom, I’ll call you next week. I want to tell you that next time when you go on a rant about my brothers and sisters, I’m going to stop you and say, ‘Mom, I love you very much. I look forward to talking to you next week. Bye.’ I’m going to hang up.” The next week, he couldn’t have been two sentences into the conversation, she goes on a rant. He said, “Mom, I love you very much. I look forward to talking to you next week. Bye.” The next two weeks were like maybe 10, 15 minutes into it, then the next week was like 30 minutes into it. He did it three times. After that, he said, “I never had to do it again. The last two years of my mother’s life are the best years I ever had with my mom. I talked to her every week. We had mature adult conversations. It wasn’t all wine and roses. My mom had problems, but she wasn’t toxic about it.

We would talk about challenges and issues she had but we did it in a mature adult way. It was the best two years I ever had with my mom because she’s in my life, but the baggage had to stay out.” I think that’s a great technique to use with people. Stewart is Australian and he always uses that as the reason for being blunt. This is a true story. Stewart is in his mid-70s and his mother-in-law is in her 90s. She would complain about what he eats and what he drinks. She knew the who’s in your room concept and the doorman concept. One day, he told her, “Stop. I’m a big boy. I don’t need this.” One day, she goes off on a rant with him about what he’s eating and what he’s drinking and he hangs up. She called her back and said, “Stewart, did you hang up on me?” He said in his Aussie accent, “I would never hang up on you, my doorman did.”

Did she appreciate that?

She didn’t, but she stopped doing it. I would probably lean more towards the Rick approach. It’s a little more tough love than the Stewart approach but whatever works for you. You draw a line in the sand and saying, “From this day forward, I will no longer accept this behavior in my life.” There’s nothing wrong in doing that.

I’ve met a lot of people and I was thinking of another deal-breaker when you were saying this. Disrespectful people are very hard for me. That’s a deal-breaker when they treat me with a lack of respect. I’ve had people in my life where I’ve tried that particular technique. We’re not talking and we’ll talk again later. You do these months and years eventually, no matter how close you are. For some people, there’s no changing who they are. Is there a time when you have a toxic or maybe even a family member like that, that you have to say, “You get out of my room?”

TTL 701 | Business Network International
Business Network International: Benign neglect means gradually losing touch with somebody.


They can never get out of your room but they could get out of your life. There are a couple of things that we recommend. One is benign neglect. The concept of benign neglect is where you gradually lose touch with somebody. It happens and you think about people you knew in high school or people you knew in college. You like them and you had a good relationship with them. Years had gone by and through benign neglect, you’ve lost touch with them. Imagine doing that with a plan. You have a plan of benign neglect. I don’t like to burn bridges. Even if somebody is toxic, I don’t need to burn a bridge. I would rather do the process of benign neglect. A technique to use to help achieve that is homeopathic doses.

We talk about both in the book. The homeopathic dose is a natural dose. It’s the minimum dose necessary to address some issues. Here’s an example. Imagine that you’re visiting a town where you’ve got a past friend who still wants to maintain that relationship. They were in your life, but you no longer want them in your life. Rather than say, “I’m coming to town,” you know they’re going to see it because you’re going to post something on your social media. They’re going to see it and then they’re going to be mad. Rather than tell them three weeks in advance that you’re coming, drop them an email the night before and say, “I’m going to be in town tomorrow. I’m free between 1:00 and 1:30 if you want to get together.” They wouldn’t even see the email. If they do, then you’ve created a guide rail to say, “I’m free between 1:00 and 1:30, I’ll see you.” You gradually, over time, through homeopathic doses, distance yourself in the relationship with them. I promise you it works effectively. I know, I’ve done it.

It’s hard when you get people who like to control the situation. When you’re younger, you may be put up with those kinds of things, but when you get older, it’s harder. You think, “Why do I want to put up with that?” I have done that with people who I don’t want to stay up all night talking or I don’t want to go shopping all day or whatever it is that we don’t have in common anymore. When you try to guide that to whatever it is, they can get very angry because they’re used to having control of the situation. Do you find that some people have a difficult time when you start to slowly wean them off? How do you deal with that?

I’ll give you an example of someone I know who was doing that with somebody. At some point in the process, the woman said to my friend, they’re both women, “What’s going on? We’re not doing things together as much as we used to.” My friends said to her, “You’re right. Are you open to an honest and direct answer?” She said, “Yes.” She told her what the problems were and they were pretty serious problems. She told her what the problems were. She said, “As a person, I love you. You’re a wonderful person, but the behaviors that you’re doing no longer fit with who I am as a person. That’s what’s going on.” Interestingly enough, the woman said, “I’m disappointed but I understand.” They stay in touch a little, but they parted ways. Had she said to the woman up front on day one rather than the benign neglect, “I’m not going to hang out with you anymore because of X,” it would have been ugly.

By doing it gradually and asking for permission to tell her why. It’s an interesting technique. I use it during conflicts. I ask for permission to be candid and people always give me permission. I then gently give them the answers. You can’t just blurt it out. It’s important. This is a true story. When I was thirteen, my mother gave me a paper-weight. It is on my desk to this day. My mom said, “I love you but you’re a bull in a China shop. You knock people over.” She gave me this paperweight. It says, “Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way.” She said, “This is about collaboration, not manipulation. It’s about working with people, not bowling them over.” I find that using these techniques with diplomacy can be very effective. What if she got mad and upset, so what? She’s out of your life. You did your best. You drew that line.

TTL 701 | Business Network International
Business Network InternationalWho’s In Your Room: The Secret To Living Your Best Life

A lot of people don’t like confrontation. They pulled the, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Does that ever work?

No. You have to say why. “It’s not you, it’s me” never works because they know that’s not true. It may be true but they don’t know why it’s true. You need to tell them why.

I have a friend who told me she had a girlfriend who told her that her relationship has reached an impasse and that was it. We make a joke that if she hasn’t heard from you after a few days, she goes, “Has our relationship reached an impasse?” Sometimes some people will say it like it is because they can handle that, but some people get mad. I was thinking in relationships with family members. I’ve noticed when I was a kid, maybe it was siblings or something, that if I got more upset like if you’ve cried as a kid instead of being mad, they were much more sympathetic. Is it better if you act hurt and then be mad? Is there any thought process behind that?

I don’t recommend crying as a strategy.

You know what I mean. It’s very sad. I’m very upset. People get very defensive if you have a negative stance that they see is confrontational or that you’re mad at them. That’s more what I’m saying.

That’s why I don’t think you should present it like you’re mad at them. This is just who I am now and no judgment about you. This is the way you want to live your life. That’s fine. It’s not who I am. Be clear, nice, and friendly about it. Don’t be confrontational. That’s my approach. I’m more the Rick approach, the Stewart approach. So what if they get mad at me? Who cares?

Some people don’t worry about that. It’s the whole personality thing that we started off with in the beginning. We are all different on how we approach everything and how we like to be approached, which goes back to the emotional intelligence empathy aspect. It’s to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes to see how they would prefer to have the situation go. Do you recommend thinking in terms of that, treat others as they’d like to be treated more than how we would want to be?

Tony Alessandra has what he calls The Platinum Rule. It says, “Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated. Treat people the way they want to be treated.” I would agree with that. If this is somebody that you knew or know, you have a sense of how they want to be treated. I would treat them the way they want to be treated, not the way I want to be treated. There might be some people that it’s okay to be blunt with. I find that even people who tend to be blunt don’t like to have people be blunt to them.

They can give it, but they can’t take it sometimes. It’s a hard thing. No one wants to hear anything negative. You’re talking about practices and recommendations to live a happier life. Is there more to the book that goes into that?

Yes, there’s so much more. One of the things I talk about is how do you say no without sounding like a jerk? That’s important. As you use those techniques and as you use the benign neglect and homeopathic doses, at some point, you’ve trained your doorman to screen people effectively. You’ve trained your doorman to deal with the toxic people that are already in your life. How do you design and create or how do you curate the room of your dreams? One of the last chapters in the book is about the concept of balance in life and living in the room you create. Diane, would you like to know my perspective on the secret to balance?

I would love that. I’m very interested.

Forget about balance, you’ll never have it. When I say this in a keynote, there’s always somebody upfront like, “I thought I was going to hear something good.” Hopefully, you’re going to hear something good. When we look at the balance in life, it’s the wrong approach to looking at life. When you think of balance, you think of scales. Our personal life has to be in balance with our professional life, which has to be in balance with our spirituality and our health. Life is not a scale. It’s not all balanced. It’s more of a juggling act and a balancing act. There are many crazy things that you have to juggle, especially if you’re an entrepreneur. It’s a lot of challenges. While I don’t believe you can have a life of balance, you can reframe it to understand that it is possible to have a life of harmony.

[bctt tweet=”Networking is also about curating the kind of life and room that will make you truly happy and successful.” via=”no”]

Harmony is different than balance. Even the graphic for the concept of harmony, the yin and the yang, are out of balance. If you separate them individually, they’re out of balance but together they create harmony. How do you create a life of harmony? We talk about a few strategies. I’ll give you a couple and if you want more, I’m happy to give you some more. Here’s the first one and it’s incredibly important and it’s simple sounding. It’s three words, “Be here now.” Wherever you are, be fully present at that moment. Don’t be at work thinking about the fact that you didn’t spend time with the family last night. Don’t be at home thinking about that work project that’s got to get done.

Wherever you are, do your best to be fully present. No one’s perfect at that. I’m not, but I worked hard to apply that strategy in my life. When my son was seventeen, he and I were sitting on chairs and the big screen TV in our living room. We’re playing a game of Halo and he was taking me out. We were leveling up to the next level and I said to him, “Was I around enough for you as you were growing up?” He looked at me like I was completely crazy. You can understand, I travel a lot. I have 2.3 million miles on one airline alone. He’s like, “Yes, you’re around all the time.” I’m like, “I don’t know if you noticed but I travel about every other week. Did you happen to know?” He said, “Yes, I know but I don’t know. When you’re here, you’re here. Can we get back to the game now?” I’m like, “Yes, we can. We can get back to the game now.”

That is an example of how you create harmony. It’s to be present. When you are there, be fully and completely there. I’ll give you 1 or 2 more. Here’s another one. You have to practice letting go and holding on. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t have it all. These people who say you can have it all are lying to you. I know some of them and they don’t have it all. You have to pick and choose. How do you pick and choose? We go back to one of our first discussions, values. You let go of anything that is not congruent with your personal values or your professional values. You’ve got to hold on for dear life, for every activity that you can do that is resonant with your values.

How do you define all? What is all?

You have to pick and choose but make sure that what you are picking is resonant with the values that you have. Even then, you have to pick and choose. There are times when people will bring things to you that they’re not what you do. They’re not your specialty. They’re not your expertise. They’re not your passion, which leads to the next topic, but you’ll do it anyway. I would recommend that you’ve got to learn how to say no to those things nicely. Here’s one on how to say no, “If I did that, I’m afraid I’d let you down,” and then explain why. What I love about that technique of saying no is you don’t even use the word no. “Diane, I appreciate that but I’m afraid if I took this on, I would let you down and I don’t want to let you down.” It’s a great technique to use.

With that one, I could see people going, “You could never let me down. Your worst is what I want.” They go, “Whatever,” then what do you do?

You say, “I know I would not do my best and not even close to my best. I know I would feel like I would let you down because it’s not what I do. Let me see if I can find somebody who can help you with that. Let me refer you to somebody who would be a better fit and can give you the time you deserve to address this issue,” which is a second technique. It’s a 100% success rate with those two in conjunction. Here’s the last one. You have to find ways to live in your flame and not in your wax. When you’re in your flame, you’re on fire. You love what you’re doing. People can hear it in your voice, they can see it in the way you behave. In your wax, you don’t like it. It’s not what you want to be doing. People can see that in the way you behave and they can hear that in your voice.

You have to find ways to live in your flame and not in your wax. I get it. I ran a company for many years before I brought in partners. I understand that sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do until you get to do what you want to do. As much as possible, you need to be moving towards doing the things you truly want to do that gives you pleasure, that makes you excited, that make you want to get up in the morning, that are your flame. If you can work in your flame and surround yourself with people who have flames that are resonant with yours, you’re going to curate the life and the room that will truly make you happy and successful. Although this isn’t about networking, that’s what networking is about too.

Everything you do all ties back into very interwoven ideas. I love that because all of these things are things that we can work on. I could see why you would definitely be a New York Times bestselling author because your work can resonate in many ways. This is helpful to a lot of people reading this. They’d probably want to find out about your book. When was your book released?

It was released a few years ago. It’s on Amazon. I’ve got a website, which is a blog. I’ve been blogging two blogs a week since 2007. There are years and years of great content up there, including content from this book. I’m all over social media. You can find me anywhere, Ivan Misner.

Some of the videos I watched on and everywhere. I look at a lot of the things you do. It was all super helpful content and it gets right to the point. There’s not a lot of fluff of stuff you don’t need. I love that because I don’t like to have my time wasted, remember? Your stuff was right up my alley and I was looking forward to this. Ivan, thank you so much for being on the show.

It’s truly my pleasure. You do a great interview. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Thank you. I appreciate that.

[bctt tweet=”Contrary to popular belief, you can’t have it all. You have to pick and choose to let go of anything that is not congruent with your values.” via=”no”]

It was great to have Dr. Misner on the show, Ivan as he let me call him. Ivan’s work is something that is important. He has many great books. BNI is such an amazing company that he created. It was always interesting to read about people, learn about them, and then interview them. He definitely did not disappoint. I enjoyed our conversation. I get to talk to many incredibly interesting people on the show. It’s such a great job. If you miss any of the past episodes and you want to learn more like what you’ve learned in this episode, you can go back to it at If you want to tweet moments from the show, please do. I’d love to hear from you and just great content there. If you’re looking for more information about Cracking the Curiosity Code book or the Curiosity Code Index, it’s all there as well or you can go to for that. I enjoyed this episode. I’m looking forward to the next episode.

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About Dr. Ivan Misner

TTL 701 | Business Network InternationalDr. Ivan Misner is the Founder & Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, the world’s largest business networking organization. Founded in 1985 the organization now has over 9,400 chapters throughout every populated continent of the world. Last year alone, BNI generated almost 12.3 million referrals resulting in $16.7 billion worth of business for its members.

Dr. Misner’s Ph.D. is from the University of Southern California. He is a New York Times Bestselling author who has written 24 books including one of his latest books – Who’s in Your Room? He is also a columnist for and has been a university professor as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for the University of La Verne.


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