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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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