Thursday
Mar222012

« 8. Business networking EI skills: How to exit »

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

You need to know how to exit from people politelyEmotional intelligence can be useful in any situation, including business networking.

Too often people think that business networking is all about exchanging information; it's not.

Business networking is about engaging people.

Feeling engaged is an emotion. Feeling connected is an emotion. Feeling comfortable with each other, or interested in each other, or enjoying each other's company is all about emotions.

If the person is feeling disinterested (an emotion) in the information you are sharing then you are wasting your time. That's why emotional intelligence is critical in a networking setting.

Having said all this, one of the most emotionally difficult situations to handle when networking is the need to exit from someone. Exiting can bring up a whole host of emotions from feeling guilty for abandoning someone to feeling stuck with someone.

So how can you exit gracefully from someone, having engaged them successfully, and still leave them feeling good about themselves? Here are five emotional intelligence tips on how to exit politely.

Emotionally intelligent skills 1: It is okay to move on and mingle

The first step in exiting easily is to feel comfortable about wanting to exit. In order to help you feel good about exiting review why you and the other people are there.

First of all, you are networking to meet new and known people. This means you need to keep moving on and mingling. How else can you meet people? Exiting is a fundamental and expected part of networking. It's normal. There is no need to feel guilty about doing it.

Secondly, the other people that you come across are also there to meet new and existing acquaintances. In order for them to do this they also need to exit politely and move on, or for you to exit so they can move on. Otherwise there is no mingling.

You are all there to move on and mingle. It's expected that you and everyone else will do this. By not moving on you are making it harder not only for yourself but for the other people that you meet.

There is no need to feel uneasy about exiting; you are doing what is expected of you in business networking. However, it is important that you have emotional self-awareness so you understand how you feel and how that is influencing your behaviour when you need to exit. Apply your emotional intelligence, manage your emotions and mingle.

Emotionally intelligent skills 2: Use real reasons not excuses

My experiences of other people exiting from me are mixed. Many seem to rely on weak excuses that are neither truthful nor convincing because they feel guilty about leaving. I am sure you know what I mean and have heard them too; you may even have used them yourself.

A typical excuse is, "Oh, is that the time?" accompanied by a surprised look at a watch or clock. People are trying to suggest that they need to leave the whole event quickly. However, twenty minutes later there has been no such exit and they can be seen chatting away in another corner of the room.

This is not a good use of your emotional intelligence because you end up leaving the other person feeling irked or feeling bad about themselves, and about you.

The only way that this excuse can work graciously is if the people do leave in a hurry and they explain why, e.g. that they have to pick up their kids, or they have an important meeting with the Premier. Within five minutes, after quick goodbyes and a thank-you to the host, they need to leave.

If you must have a reason for moving on, your guilt will be less if you find a gracious, honest reason to leave. Managing emotions well, such as guilt, is all part of emotional intelligence. Feeling authentic is too.

For example, you could connect it back to your initial target number of people to meet. For example, you might say, "I promised myself to meet 8 new people tonight". And then you can add more appreciation, "It's been great you've been one of them".

No, I do not want you to sound insincere, fake or sarcastic. Genuinely being pleased to have engaged with this person for ten minutes of your life is all I am asking. Networking is about building relationships. Every step you take adds to or detracts from your success in doing this.

Emotionally intelligent skills 3: Go together to someone else

You do not have to abandon the people you meet. This is especially important if you are the host. In this case, do not abandon anyone; always take them to someone or somewhere else first.

In this way you will feel better and the other person will not feel abandoned or worry that he or she has been boring. This is a good use of your emotional intelligence.

One strategy for exiting is to suggest to the person you are with that you go and meet someone else together. Then you will feel useful rather than mean.

They may be people neither of you know, or that one of you knows or that both of you know. Similarly, you may know who they are but never have met them or you may not know who they are at all.

I often find that taking someone else with me to meet strangers makes introductions far easier.

For example, you might simply say, "I don't think you've met our Chairman of the Board. I can see him over there. Would you like me to introduce you?".

Emotionally intelligent skills 4: Go

I laugh when I think of the final moments in an exit, because a number of times I have verbally closed a conversation only to hesitate before departing and have found myself trapped into staying. The important final step is to go.

Don't let your emotions get the better of you! Emotional intelligence is not about giving into your emotions but about noticing them and then choosing the best way to manage them. This includes feeling awkward when networking.

People must walk away before the moment is lost. Too often people hesitate or linger and the moment is gone. In the meantime, the other person has started talking on a new topic, re-opened the old one with new questions, or someone else has joined in and a threesome begun.

Once all the finishing comments have been completed, walking away is imperative. The very last step on ending a conversation is to go.

Emotionally intelligent skills 5: Fade out

There are other ways to exit, especially from a group. One of them I favour is the simple fade out. What do I mean by a fade out? I mean that I merely leave, without a murmur.

Networking can be very fluid with people passing in and out of conversations and groups all the time. If you are in a group but are no longer contributing significantly to the conversation or getting anything useful from it, it is possible just to walk away and go elsewhere.

Fading out needs to be used wisely. Of course, if you are talking to someone, and are actively engaged with the group and enthusiastically exchanging ideas and conversation, it would be rude to just fade out.

However, if you have been a quiet participant, or mainly standing on the edges, or have been quiet for quite a long time and no one is actively talking to you anymore, then fading out is usually acceptable. You need to be able to read people in this regard - another emotional intelligence skill!

My guideline for fading out is the "not more than four" rule. If people come to join a group I'm in and there is not much of interest for me in the group, I fade out as new people arrive. I do this once the group expands beyond four people.

Sometimes there is no significant exiting ritual that has to be followed, no big ripple that has to be felt by your exiting, you can simply walk away. This can take confidence and courage. Yes emotional intelligence is required at every step of networking, in some form or other.

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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