In a world where communication has become mostly digital, having conversations with people IRL can conjure anxiety in some people. Especially when you’re used to typing away a response that you’ve had plenty of time to think about, you might freak out at the thought of trying to contribute to a smooth, organic conversation. If you’re one of those people who shudders at the thought of a room filled with potential business or social connections, this post is for you. Here’s how you can be a better networker.
Although it sounds like a burden to some, getting to know people in real life is so crucial. On the Internet, nothing is truly physical. There is no real connection. In the real world, getting to speak with people in the flesh is an amazing part of life that yields so many benefits. Not only do you get the feeling of a real human connection, but you can convey so much more emotion, empathy, and charisma. Behind a screen, you have no hand gestures. You have no voice inflection. All you have are flat words and perhaps an emoji that can be easily misconstrued.
To be a better networker, you need to bring back the basics of human connection. Conversations are supposed to feel natural. If you feel that you’re having trouble connecting with people in social settings, here are my best conversational and networking tips. (Remember, I’m really an introvert, so if I can do it, so can you.)
1. Be happy
This sounds silly, but it’s true. Think about the last time you spoke with someone and you really enjoyed the conversation. Was the person a mopey, silent communicator with one-word answers? Probably not. People like talking to people that radiate good energy (there’s the innate feeling that it will rub off on them because it usually does). Smile when you meet someone. Be upbeat and positive. You will draw in much more interest.
Most of being a good communicator is simply just being a great listener. When in a conversation, most people are just waiting for their turn to talk. Don’t make this mistake. Be mindful about listening to what the person is saying to you. Nod your head to show that you’re listening. Find commonalities. Then, when it is your turn to speak, piggy-back off of something he or she mentioned to confirm that you were engaged in the topic.
3. Ask questions
If someone seems to be very passionate about something, ask them questions about it. Something like, “Wow, how long have you been horseback riding? Where do you like to go?” will not only show that you’ve been listening, but now you’re showing that you are interested in hearing more about what he or she is passionate about. People love talking about themselves, and when you make it feel like you’re invested in their interests, the connection instantly becomes deeper. It is no longer just small-talk.
4. Loosen up
I can’t help that I default to humor when I’m a little uncomfortable. It’s just something I do to help everyone feel more at ease. Luckily, it works. Once people realize I’m not a robot, they open up more to me. I don’t mind being a little silly in conversations with new people, and they catch on to that. Don’t be so rehearsed. People want to talk to people. When you show that you’re human, the conversation is much more organic.
5. Be polite
Politeness goes a long way. At the end of your conversation, don’t forget to say that it was nice to meet him/her. This way it’s not weird if you want to follow up with an email or phone call about something business-related you mentioned. Keeping the connection open and non-threatening is the best way to establish a long-lasting business relationship (or friendship). If you feel like you’re coming off too promotional, you probably are. Relax. To be a better networker, just be a little more human.