The following is a compilation of a few email exchanges between myself and my good friend Stephen. We often get together to talk about networking, social tips and building rapport. I sincerely hope this helps those of you looking to increase your networking skills!
Since I was new to the bay area, I had to get out and step out of my comfort zone to make friends and connections. I would go to several meet ups and mixers. (BTW I came to find out that networking shouldn’t be your end goal. Networking is a by-product of building genuine relationships with people.) I’ve always felt that you can’t network for the sake of networking. But you should network to make genuine friendships and help others the best you can.
The idea of testing phrases at mixers or social events came from Ramit Sethi. So at some events where I would meet a barrage of people, I tested two phrases to see which one allowed me to build a genuine connection. They were “What do you do” and “How was your day?”
After testing these phrases out in various conversations I came to the conclusion that “How was your day?” was a much better introductory question than “What do you do?”
We all want to know what the other person does, as we’re generally curious. But I found that asking it immediately after meeting someone came off as self serving. The tone of this conversations was often more selfish as the other person and I were now quickly trying see if we could use the other in something.
Using it made me uncomfortable and having someone else ask me, made me defensive and guarded.
However, I found that asking someone sincerely “How was your day?” was a much more effective way to initiate a conversation.
Furthermore, that phrase opens the up the conversation as you can now ask questions on their day or hobbies to try to find common ground.
In my observations, I’ve found that really good communicators and networkers know how to dictate a conversation as they give everyone in the group a chance to talk.
My roommate in college was wonderful at this. He had a lot friends from high school that were down at SDSU.
I would tag along everywhere he went. As he was always with friends from high school, they had a lot of stories and memories to share.
However, he would always pause during a story with someone else, turn to me, and fill me in on the background. This would give me a chance to comment on the story and make me feel a part of the group.
He always made sure to give me a chance to be included. And I’ve tried my best to pass that along when I find myself talking to two or more people that have never met each other, but know me.
How many times have we heard two people talk about something and we have no idea what’s going on? Annoying when they don’t fill us in, right? Great communicators know how to control conversations and distribute the opportunity to speak.
What about you? What traits from great communicators do you admire? Reply below in the comments and share with others!