One of the recurring themes I’ve caught onto recently on personal and leadership development sites is the concept of “how to network the right way”. There are a multitude of opinions on how to connect with people and stand out, but it seems the one idea most people who write on this topic agree on is that people remember you when you make THEM feel important.
Essentially the consensus is that people are addicted to selfishness.
They want to talk about their interests and their own life as much as possible and if you allow them to indulge themselves for a few moments, they will want to come back to you later for another fix.
There’s nothing new about anything I’ve said up to this point, but what you haven’t heard from anyone else is HOW to keep someone talking about their own interests and plans, and how to do so in a way that makes everyone in the conversation comfortable.
Let me ask you a question. Have you ever been in the awkward situation of going to a “networking event” or social gathering in which you find yourself attempting to describe the ins and outs of your business to a person who has no idea of what you’re talking about? Maybe you have been in the more uncomfortable place of talking with someone that is pretending to understand you?
Isn’t that frustrating?
It is extremely difficult and frustrating to talk about yourself to someone who is uninterested. It is MORE frustrating to talk about yourself to someone who is PRETENDING to be interested. It’s only fun to talk about yourself if the other person seems genuinely bought-in.
As a leader and a networker you never want the person you are speaking with to feel that you are uninterested in what they are saying, but how do you do that without faking interest?
The trick is to intelligently engage in the conversation by knowing just enough about their subject to keep what you are saying engaging but not overpowering.
You want know enough to contribute to the conversation without dominating.
Enough to laugh at their jokes but also seem like you are trying to learn from them.
How do you find this Goldilocks Zone of conversational knowledge? The same way that you become a master of Trivial Pursuit, by becoming a student of as many subjects as possible.
You don’t really need to know a lot about any particular subject, you just need to know enough to ask good questions in a bunch of different categories.
No need to understand how they do what they do, but at least know why they do it.
You don’t have to agree with their position, but at least understand it.
If you consider yourself a leader or a “people person” you must meet others on their level.
Speak their language.