Topic of the Week Connected: Using Body Language to Connect When Networking:
- Open arms.
- Forward lean.
- Eye contact.
Connected: Using Body Language to Connect When Networking
Ever notice how some people are just better at networking than you are? They can just walk over to someone and start a conversation that makes it feel like they've known the person for years? Part of that is what they say, but a big part of it is also their body language. Which reminds me of a 38-year-old man who was hospitalized in Princeton, WV with gunshot wounds. He had been drinking beer and reported accidentally shooting himself three times, as he attempted to clean each of his three guns. He said the first shot didn't hurt, the second "stung a little," and the third "really hurt," prompting him to call an ambulance. You just can't make this stuff up.
That's what often happens when we try to network, we end up shooting ourselves. That's the bad news. The good news? It is often easy to fix. That's why I've included a simple strategy for remembering how to make your body language work to your advantage when you first meet someone. "S.O.F.T.E.N." For more, check out "How to Start Conversations and Make Friends" by Don Gabor (Touchstone, 2011).
Smile. Okay this is obvious. You should smile so that the person thinks that you actually are glad that you met them. If you only remember one of these suggestions, this is a darn good place to start. And not one of those forced smiles that your teenager does when you ask her to smile for a photo.
Open arms. Ever talk to someone who has his or her arms crossed tightly across their chest? It's easier to talk to a concrete wall. That's why it's so important to have your arms open so that you make the person feel welcome. I know that these techniques seem simplistic, but when you add them all up they will make a huge differences in the connections that you make with people moving forward.
Forward lean. Leaning forward sends the message that you actually care about the person and what they have to say to you. Be aware that people have different comfort zones for how closely they like to have someone during a conversation. You don't need to get right in their face, just leaning a few inches in their direction can make a difference.
Touch. This one needs to be deployed very carefully. Reaching out to touch someone's shoulder during a conversation can establish a great connection with them. But you have to read the situation and the person very carefully so you don't send the wrong message to them, some people just don't like to be touched. Especially someone of the opposite sex.
Eye contact. Every try to talk to someone whose eyes were constantly darting around the room? It's a pain. That's why it's so important to train yourself to stare deeply into someone's eyes during a conversation.
Nod. If they say something you agree with, nod in agreement.
Follow these tips and you'll be cleaning up each time you meet someone while networking.
Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org.