If you hate networking – or think you hate it, read this…
If you hate networking, can you identify why? That’s easy, you might say. I hate feeling uncomfortable. I hate the “small talk”. I hate someone who is looking around the room. I’m not ever sure what to talk about. Or how to leave a conversation. I hate talking about myself. And what if I have lettuce in my teeth?
Do you notice a pattern here? It’s the word “I”.
What if, instead of thinking about sweat you can feel in your brow, you focus on the other person? And what if you take it a step further and get into that mindset before you even get to the place where the networking will take place?
Whether it’s one person you are talking with or a whole group of people you will be mingling with, the technique is the same. There are 7 little words to get you into the mindset and keep you in the mindset.
What can I do to help you?
Why does this work?
Immediately, you stop thinking selfishly about yourself, how you’re not good enough or what you want to get out of the conversation – and you focus on the other person authentically, genuinely and in a way that motivates the other person to want to talk with you because, let’s face it, everyone wants to know, “what you can do for me”.
Let’s think about practical application of this mindset as well. Knowing the technique isn’t enough – you have to apply it well. If you just run around asking, “What can I do for you,” and thinking you’ll get the other person another plate of food or a beverage of their choice, or maybe ask the host to turn down the air conditioner, you’ve got it wrong.
The perspective of “What can I do to help you” is about adding value to the conversation or for the other person by helping this person with something that is important to him or her. That’s the key – what’s uniquely important to this person? What’s important to the person you are talking to at 8PM on a Thursday that might be different from what’s important to the person you talk with an hour later? For example, Angela, the sharp, 29-year-old attorney with the light blond hair and blue rimmed glasses might be interested in health law. But she may have also mentioned some of her personal interests, which include running and yoga. And through the conversation, you found out that Angela is new to the area; she moved here 2 months ago. You may not be an attorney. You may hate running and yoga. But you’ve lived in the area for 10 years and you happen to know there is a running road race every February that some of your friends talk about and have tried to get you to run in. Although running the race is the last thing you want to do, Angela might be very interested to know about this race. By sharing the details of the race with her, you will have added value to her life because running is important to her.
Since Angela also hates “small talk” and never knows what to talk about, the fact that she found out something she didn’t know, but was interested in, is a huge bonus for her. Now she’s motivated to help you. She really wants to talk with you and before you know it, the two of you are engaged in a genuine conversation about your work. You find yourself talking about a recent problem between the nursing administration and the medical staff and while Angela is an attorney, she has friends who are doctors so she can relate. She offers a suggestion for a solution to your problem that you didn’t consider. It’s a fresh perspective and it really excites you.
Interesting how that all happens, isn’t it?
As you say, “it was nice meeting you” and walk towards the appetizer table, you feel good about the conversation, confident in yourself and realize that you might have had fun talking with Angela.
That’s what networking is all about!