If you love business networking, you’re probably in the minority. I haven’t got any official numbers on how many people love or hate this ‘thing’ we need to do in some form or the other to succeed in almost any level of business.
But, I do know that many of the clients I’ve worked with over the years tell me they hate it. Not only do they hate it, they feel guilty about hating it. It’s like its something we should have all been born to be able to do well and love doing. And if we don’t love it, we somehow don’t match up.
Many people’s view of networking is to just get through the event
I was asked recently to deliver a talk on how to have ‘meaningful conversations’ while networking. Many people’s view of networking is to get through the event, talk to a few people, maybe even hand out a few business cards, but getting to something meaningful often doesn’t make the list of objectives. Yet if we can get to something a little deeper, something to make both parties feel connected and remember the conversation in positive way, it’s not only good for business, its good for our brains.
In the book Conversational Intelligence – How Great Leaders Build Trust and Get Extraordinary Results author Judith Glaser talks about the value of connection and trust, what it does to our brain and techniques for building trust that can help us get to something meaningful. I’ve applied her ideas to networking.
Trust is the Key
Our brains make an almost instant decision about whether we trust someone or not. If our brain decides to trust, we open up to conversation with the other person. We also get a release of Oxytocin (often called the feel good hormone) into our brain and are able to build even stronger connections with people. If our brain decides not to trust we literally shut ourselves and the other person, down.
There are ways we can quickly prime our brains to make a stronger connection and get into a meaningful conversation
So how do we build trust in an instant? Surely this is something that is developed over time and takes getting to know someone on a deeper level. Yes it is, but there are also ways we can quickly prime our brains and the brains of those around us to make a stronger connection and get into a meaningful conversation.
Listen to Connect – not judge or reject
One of the most powerful ways of building trust and connection quickly is to show people that you’re interested and listening. I don’t mean just an external display of heading nodding and the appropriate ‘active listening’ noises. I’m talking about actually giving that person your full attention.
There are two things that get in the way of giving full attention. The first is that we often listen to others only for a place to be able to tell our own story. If you’re busy thinking of your own story and how to tell it, you are not listening and not building trust and connection. These types of conversations end up as a sharing of anecdotes as both speakers focus on what they can talk about next. It rarely leads to anything meaningful and you walk away remembering your own stories rather than anything about the other person.
Often, rather than listening to the other person, we listen to our own internal chatter
The second thing that gets in the way is that rather than listening to the other person, we listen to our own internal chatter. This chatter may be mundane musings about work or home, or it could be judgmental thoughts about the other person or even about ourselves. Chatter and judgment, whether of others or ourselves gets in the way of listening. We need to make a conscious effort to put aside the internal chatter.
Double Click for Meaning
Double clicking is about being curious and digging for meaning behind a person’s words. It’s like double clicking on the mouse into a file or link on a computer. As we double click we find more information. It’s the same in conversation.
When someone shares a little about themselves, their role or their company we can be curious and ask what they mean by certain words. This helps us learn about them as a person, their views, their thoughts and opinions. It could be quite simple ‘What do you mean by YOU LOVE Hong Kong’? Or it could be a little deeper ‘What do YOU mean by next year is going to be difficult’. The idea is to double click into areas that get people thinking on a deeper level. Once this type of conversation opens up, it becomes more meaningful. The trick here is to listen to connect so that you can double click into what is important to the other person.
People often tell me they don’t like networking because they can’t think of anything to say. Listening to connect and double clicking make it easy to connect without having to have a list of topics to talk about. The trick here is to listen to connect so that you can double click and ask questions about what is important to the other person.
The trick here is to listen to connect so that you can double click and ask questions about what is important to the other person
So whether you are networking at formal business function informal gathering try building trust by listening to connect and double clicking into meaning.