Why do so many people find networking so uncomfortable? It’s not because they are introverts. It’s not because they are socially inept. It is because they fail to be genuinely curious about what they might learn in conversation with another human being.
To often we approach a networking meeting trying to figure out how we can ‘get’ something from the other person without being obvious about it, right? Maybe if I start talking to Cynthia about her new cycling apparel start-up for women perhaps she will tell me she really needs a top-notch internet marketing manager (me!) Wrong approach.
What if you were genuinely curious about how Cynthia came up with the clothing line she is trying to sell? What convinced her to become an entrepreneur? What niche is she trying to fill?
Try putting yourself in her shoes for a moment too. What was it like to leave your full time corporate job in advertising to pursue something you were really passionate about? Questions like these will draw the person out and provide you with information you might not expect. Showing a little empathy and admiration never hurts either. It can create a bond with the person because you show you genuinely care.
Granted, the questions I suggest here for a networking meeting must be thoughtful and without hidden agenda. In other words, your curiosity and genuine interest drive the conversation. And of course, you better do your homework ahead of time and be prepared to talk about the person’s industry, company and more.
As you learn more about your host, you will be in a position to give back emotionally. You will build trust and pave the way for future conversations. Remember, networking is a process and takes time. Be patient.
Want to learn more? Have a look at Brian Grazer’s book ‘A Curious Mind’ where he discusses curiosity conversations he has had with such notables as Jonas Salk, Oprah Winfrey and Steve Jobs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.