Likability is the art of business networking

Life is all about the relationships that we build with those around us, be it on a personal or business level. This relationship is what helps develop or weaken our network with others. A quote sums this up perfectly – “Our net worth depends not in the wealth we have but the network we have” – and there’s a lot to learn from this. If you reflect on this, it’s easy to understand that networking is basically the way we forge new relationships and finally, it comes down to liking someone or making them like you.

Similarly, business networking is all about cultivating and nurturing relationships. The goal isn’t to connect with others for short term results; rather, the focus should be to build trust and attain mutual benefits through stable, long-term relationships.

From what I have learned, there is a golden rule when it comes to networking and this is in the way you interact with others during any networking event. In such a gathering, try to recognize what people tend to like, identify the characteristics and specialties of the people you meet and learn more about those around you by observing them. While likeability differs from person to person, the basic rule remains pretty much the same. If you want to become a smart networker, then you should make people like you. It’s just that simple.

Or is it?

There are some basic aspects of likeability that can be condensed into a few observations and I’ll be discussing them here:

To be authentic, you have to be focus on simplicity. 

You can never get people to like you if you aren’t true to yourself. If you want to be likeable, you should be genuine and treat people with the same attitude. Learn to help people and approach them without any biases. While everyone will obviously have their own attitudes, beliefs and ideologies, be sure to maintain your own authenticity. Don’t try to be what you’re not – just be who you are.

“The beauty of the law of authenticity is in its simplicity: Don’t try, just be”.

If you can’t be authentic, don’t be there

We have all faced situations where we just had to go to an event although we genuinely didn’t want to. So if you find yourself in a similar spot, then it’s better that you skip such events where you fell you can’t be authentic. A person’s authenticity will become visible when you make choices that you want to or not when you make forced choices. Being genuine is the only way to build meaningful relationships with others.

Consistency and confidence in communication

Let’s face it – talking to something who is fake just makes you want to walk out of the conversation and this is true to everyone. When the body language is not in sync with the words, then it’s hard for others to listen to you. As far as networking is concerned, there are three aspects which will make you more likeable to others. This is also known as the three Vs:

  1. Verbal – The choice of words
  2. Vocal – The tone of your voice
  3. Visual – Your body language

Always remembers these three Vs whenever you’re communicating with anyone. Maintain the same message across your words, tone and body language and this will make you a more genuine individual inside out.

Psychologists have backed this up too. Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist says that a person will like another individual based on 7% verbal, 38% vocal and 55% visual. This naturally means that your choice of words will have no effect if your speech is not backed up with a pleasing tone and body language.

The bottom line is that ‘It’s not in what you say but in howyou say it’.

Being curious is good and asking questions helps maintain good conversations 

Picking up a conversation with a total stranger can be frightful for many people. Even when the silence might feel deafening, we avoid talking if we don’t know what to talk or out of fear of saying something stupid. So if you don’t know what to say but want to break the ice, then show some genuine curiosity about another person in a healthy way.

Asking something about his/her interests, hobbies, likes and so on is a wonderful way to get started on a conversation. However, bear in mind that the effectiveness of your conversation will depend largely on the type of questions you ask. There are two ways of asking:

  1. Asking open ended questions
  2. Asking probing questions

Open ended questions are a great way of starting a conversation. For example, if you’re attending a training program, you could simply ask the person sitting beside you, “Hey, how did you get to know about this program?” This will encourage the other person to give you a response and build a conversation.

On the other hand, if you ask the person sitting next to you, “Did you get to know about this event on the newspapers?”, then he/she would simply say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ and that would be the end of it. So if you want to hold a conversation, stick to asking open ended questions.

As far as probing questions are concerned, this makes for great follow-ups to the questions you have asked previously. This falls into three categories:

  1. Clarifying questions. For example, “Do you mean….?”
  2. Rational questions. For example, “I’m curious as to why you think that ….?”
  3. Expansion probes. For example, “Please elaborate….

You see, curiosity may have killed the cat, but I can tell it never killed a conversation!

Good conversation is about being a good listener

When speaking about having a conversation, we tend to think about what we should talk most the time. But did you know that having good listening skills can enhance conversations too? As far as business networking is concerned, there are three levels of listening:

  1. Inward listening- This is the basic level of listening where you listen to what the other person says and relate that to your own experience. For instance, if a person tells you, “I love Indian food”, you may answer “Me too!” or “I actually prefer Chinese”.
  2. Outward listening- This is where you relate what you hear to what you know about that particular subject. For example, if someone tells you “I love Indian food”, you could respond by saying, “That’s interesting. Why do you like it? Did you go to any good Indian place recently?” This way, you can hold a prolonged conversation and get to know about the other person’s likes, interests and perspectives.
  3. Intuitive listening- This focuses on not only the words but also the tone, voice, body language and even the energy. When someone tells you that he/she loves Indian food, you could reply in an enthusiastic or genuinely curious way by saying, “You really seem to love it! Thinking of maybe visiting India to try more of their awesome food?

Elaborate on similarities

As social beings, we humans are naturally comforted by what we know and finding similar subjects of interest to talk about will make your partner more comfortable with you. This will enhance their likeability and increase their comfort level with you. This way, the conversation flows without any difficulty.

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