This time of year we have networking thrust upon us, whether we like it or not. For the extraverted “bring it on” is the first thought, introverts not so much. For some the standard anaesthetic of Prosecco is not enough. Only after two glasses of wine, a few shots and colourful cocktail or three is the mettle, or the karaoke microphone, grasped.
While it is always a mistake to see networking as an opportunity to close a sale it is equally daft to miss the chance to open a door. Your compulsory office doo, the essential client events you attend or the odd ad-hoc thang you turf up at are all a chance to connect.
The good news for introverts is that listening and questioning and letting others take the floor is a great way of being seen as charming. Flattery gets you everywhere, provided you come out from behind the yucca.
Extraverts? You need to learn to inhale, pause and maybe catch the name of your new friend before telling your life story, because every word you hear in the next fortnight is a clue into someone’s loves, likes, interests and motivations.
Too many miss them.
Be genuinely curious. Suspend the need to bump your gums in the first person. Be present for them and ask great questions: What’s so cool about cats? Does mum prefer Sunday dinner with you or like to stay in the nursing home? I had no idea The Cure were still touring; how many times have you seen them since 1984? How does a Londoner end up as a Sunderland supporter?
Of course there is a balance to be struck. It is not about having two ears and one mouth and using them in proportion; there would be a lot of silence if everyone did that, so alongside curiosity you need disclosure. Trust takes time but rapport building through mutual disclosure will definitely take you beyond visceral likeability: I was more into Japan and Heaven 17 in the 80s, I’m glad there are no photos of me with big hair and spots, what other bands have you seen recently? Dundee United and Arsenal are my teams though I’ve only seen the Gunners twice; who do you think will win the EPL this year, if not Sunderland? My dad has dementia and is in a place that’s terrific but hard on mum. Is your dad still alive?
And cats? They know what’s what. It’s their independence and disregard for my furniture I just love. But how do you cope with the smell of their poo?
It would be great to catch up in the New Year; I’ve got your card (and the name of your cats, your mum and dad, your football team and your three favourite bands) so I’ll give you a call in January to sort that. Have a great Festive break. I hope mum likes the cardigan as much as the bottle of gin.
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about the author
Russell Wardrop is our Chief Executive. If you would like to know more about this subject, drop him an email and we will be in touch.