Tuesday
May152012

« 2. Ten EI skills: What NOT to do when networking »

By Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute; Author of "Business networking" (now out of print).

Why mention emotional intelligence and business networking at the same time? Because your emotions will influence what you do when you attend a networking event or meet people at a breakfast, luncheon or dinner party.

Are you aware of how your emotions may hold you back when networking? Or how they may help you approach people more confidently?

Emotional self-awareness is an important aspect of emotional intelligence and business networking. 

Emotions drive your and other people's behaviour; and your behaviour when business networking is no different.

For example, if you feel awkward, uncertain or inept you are less likely to put yourself forward and introduce yourself to strangers than if you feel confident, comfortable and relaxed about doing so, aren't you?

If we experience "negative emotions" when networking and we "give in" to them we can end up being involved in counter-productive behaviours. It is important to avoid some of the common mistakes people make when they go business networking and to be able to manage your own emotions so this doesn't happen to you. Yes! rev up your emotional intelligence before you step into a room!

Here are ten networking blunders to avoid.

Emotional intelligence skills 1: Don't sit with your colleagues

Networking is an opportunity for you to meet new people, don't waste it. If you come with a group from work, move. Leave them and sit on a different table. Meet them again later. Otherwise you might as well have stayed in the tea room at work.

If you feel more comfortable staying with your colleagues then manage this emotion so you can also feel comfortable about leaving them and catching up with them later.

Look forward to talking to new people you may meet and what they might bring to the occasion. Or move and take one colleague with you. Don't just give in to the emotion, be emotionally intelligent.

Emotional intelligence skills 2: Don't sit down early

If you are feeling at a bit of a loss, or at odds with the people present it can be easy to find a chair and sit down, to help yourself to feel better.

Some people check out the toilets, the drinks and the food, and even the exit signs because they feel nervous about networking.

The problem with this is that you then miss out on the networking opportunities.

It's easier to network and mingle standing up. Once you've sat down you may feel less inclined to move and it is harder for people to come to you and greet you.

Instead, find a more useful way to relax and feel at ease with the situation.

Yes, your skills in emotional management and emotional intelligence are very important here.

  • Did put yourself in a positive emotion before arriving?
  • Did you prepare topics to talk about?
  • Can you find someone you know who is standing with a stranger?

Manage your emotions intelligently. Being able to shift into more "positive emotions" can be a very helpful emotional intelligence skill for networking.

Emotional intelligence skills 3: Don't arrive unprepared.

If you feel shy, uncertain of what to talk about, or wary of meeting new people, prepare.

Think in advance of topics you can talk about, how you can introduce yourself and what your latest news is. Don't just wait for someone to say, "What have you been up to?" and expect to immediately remember, if you haven't thought about it before and you are feeling embarrassed. Make it easier for yourself, so you can still make conversation even if you do feel shy.

Be prepared, avoid awkward silences, and you'll feel better. It's emotionally intelligent!

Emotional intelligence skills 4: Don't give short answers.

Don't answer questions with only 3-4 words.

If you feel withdrawn, disinterested or guarded there is a likelihood that you will not say much. You don't have to give in to these emotions, manage them and say more.

If someone asks you "What do you do?" or a similar question, appreciate that they are showing an interest in you and trying to engage you in conversation. Therefore, be generous in your reply. If you only say "Personal Assistant" or "Health Inspector" or "Solicitor at Freehills" you've just killed the conversation. Instead say more about what your job involves or move on to other things you like to do.

Help yourself to feel comfortable and help the other person to feel comfortable talking to you. There are emotions on both sides for you to consider. Being able to manage other people's emotions is another aspect of emotional intelligence which is important when networking.

Emotional intelligence skills 5: Don't only talk work

Boredom is a killer emotion at business networking events. One of the times boredom arises is when people only talk about work. You have worked all day and then you talk work all evening. 

Even if you are at a business function you don't have to restrict yourself to only talking work. Networking is about building relationships. Therefore, conversations can explore what you might jointly be interested in outside work, or on providing assistance or information in any area of life.

Do what you can to manage any boredom and be willing to explore interesting topics of conversation. It is better that you generate enthusiasm than boredom, isn't it? It is all about using your emotional intelligence skills.

Emotional intelligence skills 6: Don't get stuck in a corner

Take up space, don't hide.

Some networking functions don't use large rooms and may have only small spaces available, e.g. if it's at a restaurant. Make sure you aren't backed into a corner. It's much harder to escape and mingle. You won't want to feel trapped, will you?

Emotional intelligence skills 7: Don't only talk to those you know.

If you feel relaxed with the people you know it is easy to stay with them and not venture out into the world of unknown people. However, networking is about meeting new people as well as building relationships with people you already know. Don't only limit yourself to meeting the people you already know. It is not emotionally intelligent.

If there are new people at the function go and meet them. Get to know them. Help yourself to take the initiative, they may feel relieved to have someone new to talk to. 

Emotional intelligence skills 8: Don't forget your business cards.

Business cards aren't everything but they are important.

I'm surprised how often I go to networking events and people haven't brought their cards or haven't given them out or haven't put them on a networking table. If there's a networking table make sure your cards are on it.

If you feel silly giving out your card or dislike doing so, manage these emotions by thinking of the cards as lollies. You would probably feel good giving people prizes! Alternatively, consider how helpful your card will be for the other person. Many people at networking events forget people's names and feel stupid for doing so. By giving them your card you are making it easier for them to remember your name and who you are.

When you can identify the benefits of giving your cards you may feel more confident in handing them out. Managing your emotions and using your emotional intelligence skills do matter when you're networking. Do what you can to feel confident, at ease and interested, and networking will be easier.

Emotional intelligence skills 9: Don't stay on one seat

Once you become comfortable on one place, or with one person, it is so easy to stay put. Move out of your comfort zone, manage your emotions so you overcome your apathy, and find the enthusiasm to move seats.

Whether you're attending a breakfast, luncheon or dinner move seats. It's easy to do this between courses or as soon as the meal is over. That way you'll meet more people.

Emotional intelligence skills 10: Don't exclude people

When you are networking be INCLUSIVE with everyone you meet. Don't cut people out of conversations in a group, don't ignore someone in a threesome, and don't turn your back on people during a dinner conversation. Always keep a look out for other people and be kind to them.

Develop your business networking and emotional intelligence

There is so much more to learn about how to engage people, how to develop high levels of emotional intelligence, and how to be brilliant at business networking so you build your business. We have only scratched the surface here. Would you like yourself or your team to be even more skilled at business networking so they engage the people who matter? You can. With us

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