Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute; author "Business networking".
Why talk about emotional intelligence and business networking in the same breath? Certainly, emotional intelligence isn't usually mentioned in this context, yet it is a vital link to networking success that many people fail to consider.
Sometimes people think of business networking as being a grab for work. They are out to "get" business, they are ready to fire off their 30 second elevator pitch, to thrust another batch of business cards in someone's hands ... to work a room.
But wait. Business networking is not just about swapping business cards or working a room. It is about building relationships with people.
This is where emotional intelligence fits in.
Building relationships involves emotions.
Emotions drive people's behaviour; and their behaviour when business networking is no different. The ability to engage people when networking requires significant emotional intelligence and EQ skills.
You are also driven by your emotions, and how well you express, manage and control your emotions influences your success when meeting and greeting people, making conversation, exiting from people, and forming longer term partnerships and relationships.
This is all governed by your levels of emotional intelligence.
Let's look more specifically at two of the emotional intelligence competencies and how they relate to your business networking skills.
Emotional intelligence competency 3: Emotional awareness of others
The third emotional intelligence competency on the Genos emotional intelligence model, emotional awareness of others, is very relevant to business networking. It relates to how well you can read other people.
Every person you meet is having some form of emotional reaction to you, to the event and to their business. Your skills in reading these emotions in a business networking session are a crucial emotional intelligence skill if you want to connect with, build relationships with and develop trust with people.
- Can you tell whether people are interested or disinterested in the topics you have chosen?
- Do you know if people are anxious or comfortable with how close you are standing to them?
- Can you determine whether a person is pleased with the questions you're asking or feeling wary of you?
- Can you pick up whether the group you have broken into is enthusiastic about your arrival or miffed that you have butted in?
- Do you know if the people you are talking to are keen for you to exit from them or concerned because they don't want to feel abandoned?
- Do you know if the person to whom you are talking is showing a genuine interest in what you do or is merely being polite?
- Can you work out if someone is lying to you or not?
If you fail to notice changes in the emotional responses of the people you are with, or fail to see when someone is not interested, then you run the risk of diminishing your reputation, and jeopardising your ability to form meaningful relationships.
For example, if you miss the fact that the people to whom you are talking are feeling intimidated by you or bored by you, you may not only fail to engage them but they may later bad mouth you and your business.
In contrast, if you are aware that they are feeling uncomfortable with your questioning then you have the choice to change what you are doing until they become more at ease.
It is no good having a long list of topics, or the best elevator pitch, if you are unable to gauge the feelings that your topics or pitch evoke in the people you meet.
Emotional intelligence competency 3: Read the subtle cues
You constantly need to pay attention to the subtle emotional cues that people are giving off at every stage of a networking interaction and conversation. And you need to be able to do this while also thinking of what to talk about yourself, or while you are talking.
Being able to read the emotions of others can require high levels of emotional intelligence as some people are hard to read.
They may show very little emotion in their face or body, and you need to be able to read subtle emotional cues. These may include:
- changes in skin colour,
- fleeting expressions on their forehead,
- slight wrinkling in the corner of their eyes,
- a deepening of breathing,
- a held breath,
- a sigh,
- a change in pupil size,
- shifts in weight from one leg to another,
- and so on.
Notice these in order to have any chance of gauging what their responses are and how the relationship is going.
You should be looking for signs of both positive and negative emotions. Some of the people who are very hard to read may be enthusiastic about what you are saying but not show it on their faces.
These subtle cues, when detected and responded to skilfully can make or break the success of your engagement with people during your business networking encounters.
Do you really want to go business networking without your emotional intelligence? I don't recommend that you do.
Emotional intelligence competency 6: Manage others' emotions
Being able to read the emotions of others is not sufficient when you are business networking, because once you have read them, you may need to be able to manage them. This brings us to sixth emotional intelligence competency on the Genos emotional intelligence model: The ability to manage the emotions of others.
Can this apply to business networking? Of course!
How able are you to manage the emotions of the person to whom you are talking?
- For example, if people to whom you are talking are feeling uncomfortable because your questions seem too intrusive, can you take action to help them feel more at ease with you?
- If people feel offended because you appear too pushy, can you ease back on your behaviour and help them feel more comfortable talking to you?
- If they are bored by what you are saying are you able to change the way you are talking, move to a different topic or help them to talk on a topic they feel more passionate about?
- If someone is enthusiastic about your business are you able to capitalise on this and turn their enthusiasm into something productive?
- If you want to break into a group who appear pre-occupied are you able to do it in a way that leaves them feeling interested to meet you?
Your emotional management skills will influence other people's emotional reactions to you and their desire to do business with you.
For too long business networking has been described as a series of logical steps to take. There has been a missing ingredient however, and that is the awareness and management of the emotions and reactions of the people involved in business networking, yours included. And that is why emotional intelligence has a crucial part to play in your success.
If you want to be highly successful with your business networking, gain the networking strategies and develop the communication skills you need, and take your emotional intelligence with you. Always!
Develop your business networking & emotional intelligence
- There are CDs, books and DVDs. The DVD "Business Networking: The skills you need" covers top tips on how to meet, greet and speak to people. It is applicable to any interactions with people. You also receive a free copy of our networking checklist and a free copy of our "Top twelve talking topics" card to slip into your pocket or handbag.
- There are high energy, interactive and practical emotional intelligence workshops. Of particular value is: "Networking skills: Meet, speak and exit well".
- There is a series of advanced emotional intelligence master-classes. Of great value is "Hosted: Real stakeholder networking skills". In this master-class you and your whole team invite your important stakeholders and learn to network together. It adds value to your stakeholder relationships, increases stakeholder engagement and helps you all network more easily.
- There is a dynamic keynote speech on networking and conversation skills: "Easy meet: Sizzling networking success" which will get your conference, seminar or event buzzing.
Develop your emotional intelligence now and build your business networking skills.