Before people used social media, there was social engagement to build one’s network of friends and professional colleagues. Dale Carnegie, award-winning author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, said if you want people to be interested in you, you first must be interested in them. The art of conversation seems to be pushed to the back burner in today’s texting culture. Conversation is an important and necessary skill for today’s professional. The following are a few tips to start and engage conversations so that you can win friends and influence your professional networks:
- Flattery Will Get You Everywhere! Compliments are a great way to lead into a conversation. Starting on a positive note is always the perfect first step into a discussion, and it makes the person feel good about themselves. Be careful, however, to make sure that your compliments are sincere and genuine.
- Small Talk Can Have Big Effects. Deep and meaningful conversations often start with small talk. Talking about the weather, your hometown, or the event you are attending is a great way to build rapport. Not only can this skill help pass the time but it is also beneficial in the workplace.
- Dance Through Your Conversations. Engaging in conversation with one other person or a group is much like dancing, there is a leader and a follower. These roles can easily change, the follower can quickly become the leader. To allow for an easy and fun experience, ask questions but keep it light. Pay attention to the conversation and listen for opportunities to ask questions. “Oh, I find that very interesting, can you tell me more about ____________________”.
- Stay Engaged. Showing interest in the people with whom you are talking is the best way to show your professionalism.. Finding common ground is a good way to remain in the discussion. Keep your phone out of the conversation. Nothing kills a networking conversation quicker than checking your email or texting. If it is necessary to leave the group, politely remove yourself by saying, “Excuse me but I need to step away. It was nice chatting with you.” If you are able to return and re-engage in the conversation then simply approach the group but don’t interrupt a discussion already in progress.
Following these suggestions can help you feel more comfortable at professional and social gatherings. You can use these tips to start building your own conversation “rules” and starters. Remember to collect business cards and to have your own business or calling cards available to follow up with new friends.