I enjoy teaching networking because it involves complex relationship building skills and requires a high degree of emotional intelligence. Rather than thinking of networking as trying to “get” something from others, it is, instead, a powerful way to make new business friends and expand your circle so that you can create a mutually-supportive community.
At the heart of networking is creating successful relationships, which is also the goal of emotional intelligence or “EQ”: to be aware of and manage your own emotions (personal competence) and sense the emotions of those around you so that you can successfully create and manage your relationships (social competence).
My students at the Yale School of Music have been practicing the art of networking by attending events and finding opportunities to network. As is the case with musical skills, the more they practice, the more they improve! In the process, they have also been honing their emotional intelligence skills.
Here are my observations on how emotional intelligence can help you to become a better networker.
For many musicians, networking invokes fear: fear of being in unfamiliar social situations, fear of meeting new people, fear of not knowing what to say.
In order to meet new people and expand your circle, it is important to recognize those powerful emotions and figure out how to manage them in a networking situation. That involves the first group of EQ skills of personal competence:
My students found that they were able to manage their uncomfortable feelings around networking using a number of strategies, both while they were in networking situations as well as over the long-term to build their EQ muscle:
In the moment:
- Take a deep breath before you meet someone new;
- Focus on what you have to offer to boost your confidence: your strengths and your flow self;
- Visualize yourself having a fun, interesting conversation with someone new;
- Think of how what you can share with this new person.
- Visualize past challenging networking experiences and then brainstorm how to do better next time;
- Recharge yourself through meditation, yoga or exercise so that you can feel relaxed and reduce your overall level of stress.
Once you have worked on your personal competence skills, you are now in a better position to meet new people and establish new relationships. This involves the second set of emotional intelligence skills: social competence.
The ability to pick up on the emotions of others is critical in building new relationships. Your goal is to create quality connections that lead to a mutually-supportive community of business friends. If you keep in mind that the goal is quality and not quantity, that will help you to focus on seeking out people with whom you are in sync. From time to time, you may experience a brush-off which can feel awful in the moment. However, you are not destined to connect with everyone and those brush-offs probably have nothing to do with you personally!
Successful networking thus involves having an awareness of the emotions of the people with whom you are dealing and then knowing how to interact with them effectively to manage the relationship. These skills are at the heart of great networking so let’s take a look at how to build EQ while building your network.
Isn’t it nice when someone addresses you by your name? This easy technique is a great way to build relationships since it means that you are genuinely focusing on the other person. You can practice it by using the person’s name whenever you are introduced to someone new:
Hello, Pam, it’s nice to meet you.
Then, make it a point to use Pam’s name a few time during the conversation. If necessary, jot down her name after your encounter to help you remember it.
Listen Before Your Speak
When you are meeting new people, instead of barging in and talking about yourself, listen! Focus on the other person and pay attention to what he or she is saying. In doing so, you can figure out what the two of you have in common. Once you get a sense of what the two of you might share, introduce or follow up on a topic that will give rise to a closer connection.
Pay attention to body language
As you meet new people in networking situations, words are just the starting point of connecting. Pay attention to the person’s body language in order to assess how open the other person is in getting to know you.
Start with the person’s face:
- Look into his eyes
Are they shifting around or does the person meet your gaze directly? If the latter, chances are that she wants to speak with you.
- How about his smile?
Is it authentic or do you sense that he is putting on a show?
- What is this person’s expression?
How open does he seem to be to meeting you and learning more about you?
Next, observe the rest of the person’s body:
- Is she leaning towards you and inviting you to make further contact? Or is she backing off, suggesting that she is not interested.
- Are her arms crossed? This might suggest that she is not open to talking.
Now, pay attention to how the conversation is flowing.
If you sense that you have piqued the other person’s interest in finding out more about you, you can share something about yourself. It helps to prepare a good Elevator Pitch where in 30 seconds, you convey to the other person the reason that he or she would be interested in speaking with you.
If there is an awkward silence or if the person’s body language suggests that he is no longer interested, it may be time to move on. And that’s okay since the goal is to make quality connections.
Adapt to Other Communication Styles
Another important aspect of EQ is being sensitive to the different ways that people communicate and adapting how you respond to someone based on his or her communication style. This is a highly effective way of connecting with others and insuring that your messages are getting across.
There are four communication styles:
- Driver: the person who likes to take control and be in charge
- Analytic: the person who focuses on details and data
- Amiable: the person who cares about the relationships
- Expressive: the person who bubbles over with ideas and loves to have fun
People tend to have a default way of communicating. In networking situations when you are meeting new people, you can use your knowledge of the four communication styles and then adapt the way that you interact with other people based on your observations of their style. Find your style and learn more about the other styles by clicking here!
For example, if you meet someone who is bubbling over with ideas and seems excited and enthusiastic, chances are that this person is the Expressive type. To attract this person’s attention, be sociable and engaging. Show an interest her ideas, interests and experiences. Tell stories and keep up with her fast pace! By doing so, you can engage her and have a lively, interesting conversation that could very well help to create a stronger bond with her.
If, on the other hand, you meet someone who speaks slowly, seems warm and friendly and listens carefully, you are likely to be dealing with the Amiable type. Slow down with this individual and refrain from coming on too strong. This person cares about cultvating quality relationships so show him that you are genuinely interested in knowing more about him by asking good questions.
By practicing your EQ skills, you can expand your network and create a group of mutually-supportive business friends with whom you are in sync and to whom you feel connected. And in the process, you are building life-long skills that can help you with all of your relationships. Now that’s a win/win!