The most important thing you can do when connecting with people is to be curious.
Other people always want to talk to curious people because it’s more important to be interested in other people than being interesting yourself.
“By asking good questions and being interested, you become likable, friendly, smart – all the things you want to be seen as,” said Carol Greenwald, PhD, during a recent webinar. “People like to be asked for advice- do it.”
Networking, even while socially distant, is more important than ever.
Greenwald explained that networking is about connecting. It is about creating relationships — usually one person at a time. Moving from acquaintance to a BFF takes a long time, a lot of work, a lot of meetings but those connections are the ones that become meaningful.
We need sustainable relationships, said Greenwald. “We need to rely on other people whether it’s through phone, Zoom or email. People need to connect with other people. That’s how humans have managed to survive and become the dominant species. We really need to be connecting.”
Lots of new online communities have formed during COVID-19. She recommended that lawyers keep up with these new groups because “a lot of these are really fun.” Review your groups and think about what you want for 2021.
It’s not redundant to join multiple professional groups because each group provides you with a different value, said Greenwald. For every group you belong to, you need a reason to belong. Some may not cost money but they may cost you time. Professional groups should help expand your knowledge.
Networking is also good for your health. “If we can connect with people in a way that we can make meaningful for ourselves, it will be better for our emotional senses and it will lead to a feeling of well-being,” said Greenwald, “If we do what good networkers do and give to get, it makes us feel better. It makes us feel like we did something that was worthwhile. The best networkers always give back.”
It’s not stalking; it’s research
Reconnecting with dormant clients is one of the scariest things for anyone who is an introvert. Nine out of ten people are usually thrilled to hear from you, said Greenwald. Before attending conferences, Greenwald looks up the speakers and connects with them.
“Online stalking” for research purposes is expected, she said. Those who want to benefit from networking should prepare questions on one to three topics. The best way to start is seek common work interests.
Next, you should decide if you want to go for trust. Greenwald cautioned that this takes time, both frequency and proximity. It requires you both to share concerns, dreams and goals.
Potential icebreakers include: “I am using my time to reconnect with people I didn’t mean to lose touch with; ” “I am calling to see if you are OK;” or “I listened to this CLE and the speaker told me it would be fun to reconnect with old friends and I thought of you.”
Listen more than you talk
Greenwald said to practice active listening and focus your attention. Don’t think about what you’re going to say, she advised. She noted that Jacqueline Kennedy and Bill Clinton were renowned for “how they make people feel like they are the only person in the room.”
One-upping people always backfires, said Greenwald. Instead, take in what the speakers says, process it and acknowledge it.
If you can offer a good ear and be a good listener, you will be a networking wonder just for that. That will set you apart.