Successful networking is about connection

Blog post courtesy of Ayesha Umar.

How do I find a job? Network. How do I change my career? Network. How do I grow my business? Network. How do I meet my sales targets? Network. We often hear these monosyllabic replies to our queries. Networking seems to be the solution to every problem these days.

Does it really work? For some, but not for all. Those who are successfully building networks are the ones who are not just communicating but connecting. We walk into meetings, conferences and business get-togethers with the single purpose of furthering our agenda. Whether that’s getting employment, changing a career, promoting our business or generating sales. In process, we manage to communicate but fail to connect.

We grew up listening to the terms’ communication skills and interpersonal skills. The ground breaker, ‘rapport’ drowned somewhere in these echoing sounds.

We need to reverse engineer our approach to networking. We must first think about connecting, that is building ‘rapport’ rather than forwarding our vested interests. How do we build rapport? By establishing a connection.

Go back to the time when we went to kindergarten and made our first friend. It could have been over something as silly as having the same school bag or lunch box. Come senior primary and the kids with Pokemon cards hang out together and those with a basketball together. In high school, sports and public speaking brought some closer while academics others. University or TAFE gave us similar courses and teachers to complain about.

We made close friends and not so close friends. The former dressed like us, talked like us and even sounded like us. The latter did all the same but were not as in sync with us as the former.

We were in a relationship of complete responsive with our friends. We cared for each other and shared the same optimism.

How did we reach this stage of rapport? It all began when we saw each other for the first time. As shallow as it may sound, it is the truth. The style came before substance. The appearance is what made us step forward and talk to this person who looked somewhat like us. Then, we shared interests and found commonalities. These commonalities helped us build a connection. Gradually, supported by honesty, loyalty, integrity and love, we established long term relationships that went on for years.

How do we apply the above knowledge to our current networking scenarios? We walk in and walk out of meetings. We don’t have a lifetime to connect and build relationships. This is the age of technology. Google and learn a few things about this person you will be meeting. Predict and mirror. Match the outfit, tone, pitch, gestures and even jargon. The more you mirror the closer you get to building rapport. Do not leave behind your individuality in the process. Match but not pretend. Be honest and not evasive. Be genuine and not fake. The real you can get you to where the fake you cannot.

How do I mirror and not be fake? Empathise and not be judgemental. Empathy makes mirroring natural and easier. Goodwill sets the stage for integrity and loyalty.

You will reach the stage of hailing that is greeting and acclaiming enthusiastically only if you satisfy the acronym of HAIL: H-honesty, A-authenticity, I-integrity and L-love.

Next time you walk in a meeting, ask yourself. Am I dressed for my audience? Am I empathetic? Do I resonate with them? Do I speak their language (jargon not mother tongue)? Am I in sync with them to establish complete responsiveness?

This article was originally printed in The Border Mail on 15/07/19