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Networking tip 17: Verbalise your listening

In my last blog I talked about the importance of listening.  To follow on from there...

When really interested and engaged, you should follow up on the speaker’s statements. This shows that you are listening with intent. Note that such comments are not interruptions! If well chosen, they should have a number of beneficial effects:

They encourage the speaker to continue: “I can’t believe that you coped when [insert unbelievable situation] happened. Tell me more!”

They subtly flatter: “That’s so impressive. Personally, I could never jump out of an airplane at 12,000 feet.  Sometimes I need a glassful of wine just to get into one!”

They suggest that you empathize: “Gosh, that’s awful—the first and only time I was rushed to the hospital with an injury, I fainted before I got there.”

They provide openings for questions: “How on earth did you manage that without any support?”

And if none of these are appropriate, you can at least acknowledge that you’re taking it all in with the occasional comment, “Gosh . . . amazing . . . Tell me more!”

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Networking tip 16: Listen

There are two purposes to being a good listener. First, it’s an opportunity to pick up nuggets of information about people and their circumstances, their businesses, or their needs. But it’s also an opportunity to be empathetic and appealing—and even to come across as a great conversationalist!

Listening can be your most important contribution to the discussion, so be sure that your body language shows that you’re attentive. Above all else, maintain eye contact—This is not the time to people-watch, or to lustfully scan the buffet table!

It sounds straightforward, but the next time you’re at a dinner, notice whether you are fully focused on the conversation. Most people glance around the room, more from habit (as experienced multi-taskers) than from actual boredom. Now, good friends probably wouldn’t even register your subtle glance across the room, but a person you’re meeting for the first time very likely will. He is subconsciously testing your reactions, and when you fail to give him your full attention, he (or she) will tend to decide that you’re either bored or arrogant. The result is a complete absence of rapport—all because you fell for some trivial distraction!

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Networking tip 15: Be interested

I'm off celebrating my birthday (which was yesterday), so I'll keep this message short and sweet!

If you've read my blog (or my book), then you will be familiar with this message, which is:  the key to being a good conversationalist is focusing on others. The bottom line is that most people love to talk about—themselves! So the more you ask and listen, the better a conversationalist you’ll be deemed to be.

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Networking tip 14: Think like a host

Rather than entering the room with the attitude of “Here I am!” you should maintain the networking mindset of taking an interest in others (“There you are!”). My former colleague, Chris, takes concentrating on others a step further. He has a knack of treating everyone as though they are important guests and he’s the host—even when he’s technically a visitor, too. Chris is always the first to ask if anyone needs a drink or a bite to eat. He looks after everyone’s comfort and makes sure that each person is properly introduced. If there aren’t enough seats, Chris always tries to find another, or goes without one himself.  Whatever the situation, he takes responsibility for making other people feel at ease. Not surprisingly, people respond to Chris’s warmth just as guests respond to a great host—and Chris’s attitude always makes him the most popular person in any crowd.

So whenever you meet someone you should focus on his needs, on supporting and empowering him, and on putting him at ease. This does two things: First, it actually makes you more relaxed by switching your attention away from your own discomfort (if any). Second, it subtly alters the dynamics of the encounter, subliminally elevating you into a host, or even into a leader. (Real leadership is all about empowering others—but we’ll get to that in later chapters.)

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Networking tip 13: Be positive

The more positive you are when you begin a conversation, the more favorable a first impression you make. I recently attended a luncheon at which the person placed next to me arrived midway through the meal. As he took his seat he commented, “Sorry I’m so late. The City just gets worse and worse! First my tube train broke down, and then I had to get a cab. But, of course, there were no cabs, thanks to the foul weather. And when I finally got one, would you believe that the stupid driver couldn’t find the street!?” After that introduction I had a difficult time warming to my luncheon partner, despite the fact that he subsequently became much more engaging. If he had started with, “Wow! Murderous getting here, but I’m so glad I made it!” how different my first impression might have been!


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