Networking Secrets: It's Not What You Say, It's What You Ask!Networking Secrets: It's Not What You Say, It's What You Ask!
By Julia HubbelBy Julia Hubbel
According to networking expert Julia Hubbel, about 75% of us are uncomfortable with networking. "Most of us are afraid of rejection," she explains. "We don't like to walk up to strangers, try to start a conversation and be put off, so many of us don't even want to take the chance." However, that lack of initiative is expensive when it comes to sales people, entrepreneurs and business people. One's ability to walk up and start a conversation in any social event is critical, especially in today's fast moving environment. "If you can't create a connection, you're crippled. The truth is that it's easier than most people think. And most people don't realize that everyone else is probably as scared to start the conversation as they are. The person who starts the conversation is the hero," she says.
Ritual questions are light conversation about the things that you have in common: the weather, the environment, local events. If you're at a conference or just heard a speaker, ask the other person's opinion. You may have an industry in common. You can talk about the city, major happenings in the world, sports, or other topics of common interest. Ask what others think to get them talking. Avoid asking yes or no questions, which leaves you with more silence to deal with. You might ask questions like:
-In what ways has this (city, country, area) changed?
If they're carrying a book, you might ask them about it. "I see you're reading ___________. I'm interested in what you think about it." The idea is to get them to talk about themselves, and then to offer information about yourself for them to respond to as well. Be aware that some people may not wish to talk about their work or find that question intrusive so be willing to talk about other subjects and redirect to something else.
-What are some things you're passionate about? Or,
These questions will get people really thinking about themselves and their work in a wholly different way, and will lead to a deeper conversation. You will need to respond at the same level about yourself and your work, too, so don't ask unless you're willing. Questions like this allow you to explore ideas, ideals, your concepts about work and much more. They also lead to friendships. People's passions are varied and surprising, and they can connect us across race and gender in ways that few other things can do. Sports like skydiving or pursuits like chess bring together diverse people and make friends across any culture and background.
Focus your energy on getting the other person to relax and talk about themselves, not to worry about being witty and entertaining. You will be a great conversationalist because you don't dominate the conversation. Be well read, and always have a supply of great questions. Make others feel the center of your attention. Don't look around the room for someone more important. You never know who those people know, after all. When you're in the habit of asking, you might just find out. That's the habit that takes you to the top!
Leave them feeling larger
When you get in the habit of asking, conversations will become easier and much more natural to you. People will begin to open up around you. You will find people fascinating because they are telling you interesting things about themselves. They will return the favor and ask you to talk about yourself as well. Before you know it you will have new friends and business contacts everywhere who are eager to hear from you again. They will introduce you to their friends and business associates- because you're such a great conversationalist!