Sunday, February 1, 2015

Don't Be a Toxic Networker

Bad Networking

Have you ever struck up a conversation with someone at a networking event, only to glance at your watch 5 minutes later and realize you still haven't gotten a word in yet? One of the following is happening:

1) They're really enthusiastic about their project and want to share it with you, but they're coming on a little strong.

2) They're telling a story but they're not very concise.

3) They just love hearing themselves talk.

1 & 2 are forgivable. Number 3 is not. 

I can usually tell when that's the case. I test out my theory by sending body language cues that I'm losing interest. I start by gradually reducing positive reinforcement: I stop nodding or saying "mhm" as they speak. Then I'll stop reacting vocally or facially to what they're saying. If it gets really bad, I'll stop looking at them entirely.


They're completely oblivious to the other person in the "conversation." They might as well be talking to a wall.

Clearly this does not make a good impression. It's insulting. And they've just spoiled a potentially valuable connection.

Don't let this be you!

Here's how to avoid being a toxic networker.

1. Ask them about themselves first

After the initial introduction, start off by asking them a question about themselves. This demonstrates interest in the other person, which is polite and flattering. A great way to start.

2. Allow for pauses

When you're chatting someone up, it's easy to get on a roll. But make sure you find natural pauses. Breathe between sentences. This makes for a more comfortable conversation anyway, and it gives the other person a chance to respond if they're truly engaged -- or a chance to change the subject to something more pertinent. The other person might really want to contribute to the conversation, but if you don't give them an opportunity, you'll never know.

3. Check for signs of disinterest or distraction

As you're talking, take note of how the other person is responding. Look for cues that they're engaged (nodding, making eye contact, smiling, etc.) or lack thereof. Similarly, look for cues that they're distracted (checking their phone, looking around the room, angling their body away, etc.). If you notice both a lack of engagement AND distracted body language, you're overdue to pass the conversation on to them.

4. Don't hog the conversation

It's fine to have a lot to say, but you don't want to dominate the conversation. That sends the message that your needs are more important or interesting than theirs.

To prevent this, pay attention to how much time you're talking vs. listening. If the imbalance is more than 60:40, let them do more of the talking.

5. Listen

If the other person is talking, make sure you are listening -- not waiting for your turn to speak. The difference is palpable. 


Stay tuned for more networking tips!

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