How often are you asked about yourself when you initially meet someone who appears to really be interested at a networking opportunity, and you actually get to finish your response without interruption? Networking groups are set up to enable people to connect with one another and find ways to work together and/or promote each other’s products and/or services. This is an ideal situation that is potentially mutually beneficial for you and the person you are speaking with.
How often are you asked a question about yourself (What brings you here? What is it you do? etc.) only to have your response ignored as the asker proceeds to:
- look around the room rather than engage in eye contact; and/or
- check their cell phone – or start texting – while you are speaking; and/or
- let themselves be distracted by another person who has just inserted themselves between the two of you to get their attention?
Worse still, how often to they then take the limited information they chose to take in about you and jump to assumptions based on this limited information? – Maybe even take a moment to hand you off to someone else or introduce you to a colleague (well-intentioned as it may be) by incorrectly representing your name or what you do or anything else you took great care to share with them? Frustrating.
How often have YOU done any or all of these things?
How engaged are you in actually meeting new people?
If you’re attending a networking function or a meeting of any kind, you are attending to connect in some way – professionally or personally – with other people. Guess what, they are there for the same reason. And how do ANY of you know whether the person in front of you from one moment to another is going to be part of a mutually-beneficial alliance UNLESS you engage them in back-and-forth conversation?
Well, it takes two people to make a conversation and it takes the ability to really listen to turn a first-time introduction into a productive meeting. Productive meaning that you both have had a solid opportunity to feel one another out – it’s kind of like how dogs sniff one another, only we have the benefit of speech versus noses-to-butts. So, if we have this benefit, why are we so lax in fully engaging this tool?
If your life depended on finding individuals that would make make beneficial business partners, associates or friends, would you put more value on opportunities that are gifted to you to meet and fully-connect with other people?
Do you even consider, after asking someone who they are and what they do, that they respond as you do to being ignored, disrespected, talked AT instead of exchanged with, and assumed to be something they are not?
Are you wiser to assume another person’s story simply by the way they act, look, or talk – OR – does wisdom come when you take time to get to actually know them?
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Become a BETTER LISTENER and watch your business and personal relationships thrive!
Building Fruitful Relationships
Respect gets noticed and is a fact about you that is more likely to be remembered about you than your name.
You seek to meet people and be met by people to learn about them – to learn their story, what brought them there, do you have any friends/acquaintances in common, what do they do, why do they do it, etc. You seek to be valued and respected; and, so do they.
Consider this: The friendships you cherish right now came about when each of you engaged in an initial conversation where you asked questions about one another AND by listening to those answers – taking in what was being said and how it was being presented – discovered you had commonality (goals, likes, friends, etc.) and likely an affinity with one another. You HAD to be listening to them – and they you – to experience such affinity. Consider also that those cherished friendships began like all other relationships; with a conversation.
A conversation is a vocal exchange of information between two or more people. An exchange – a give and take – not a one-way soapbox or podium speech AT someone.
Listening is taking in information as it is presented and being able to repeat what someone has just said to you, at minimum, in bullet form. Listening demonstrates respect.
Showing respect for those in front of you that – let’s face it – you have come to meet – involves appreciating that they are there to exchange information and share ideas with you. Respect is also being yourself – if you’re acting the way you think people want you to act, then you are making erroneous assumptions about yourself as well as those people. Are all your friends or business associates identical? Of course not! Enjoy and embrace people’s differences – especially your own because these are benefits; gifts that set you – and them – apart from everyone else! If you are truly being yourself and speaking freely about who you are and why you are there and what you’d like to accomplish by being there – with them or others attending – you are also more likely to remember the person’s name to whom you are speaking!
Details Are Good
Be an intrigued journalist. Seek to discover – get facts about – the person in front of you – their who, what, where, when, why, and even how. If they respond to your initial question(s) and do not cover the 5 Ws + 1 H, that gives you an opening to simply ask for those answers. And guess what; you’re seamlessly engaging them in conversation AND demonstrating that you are listening because you are digging deeper. You are also showing them you are truly interested in them.
If you REALLY want to make them smile, repeating back their key points to them and injecting any commonalities you discover that the two of you share, you’re on your way to developing a potentially fruitful relationship.
Notice that all of the above does NOT mean step on their words (interrupting) or interjecting YOUR opinions or YOUR accomplishments. Let them speak and wait until they are finished. That’s being respectful. Don’t you want people to do the same for you?
When they are done, take that moment to repeat their key points you got out of their response back to them and ask any questions – and you’ll likely have some good ones if you were, in fact, actively listening – to help you build a brief biography of them.
Why is that last sentence above important? Because, ultimately, when another person joins your conversation, you’ll want to be the awesome one and CORRECTLY introduce them to the joiner. This demonstrates that you were not only listening and interested in what you were hearing; you also value them enough to introduce them to another person. After all, isn’t that what networking is all about?
Additionally, you are actively demonstrating how you treat others and wish to be treated.
Time Well Spent
Does this mean everyone you meet with reciprocate? Nope. At the same time, do you really want to be friends with or do business with or recommend someone that isn’t a good listener or respectful of others?
So, who do you want to be? An awesome, respectful and respected, networking person, connector, friend, and/or business partner or ally; OR are you good with simply going through the motions, exchanging business cards you’re going to lose or forget about anyway, and simply talking about yourself rather than truly discovering all the gems – the interesting people – out there that you could be doing business or enjoying free time with?
Make a point of being a better at networking, connecting; interacting by being an awesome listener!