By: Maira Zamir, Peer Career Coach
A little networking 101 for you guys: learn how to master the art of conversation. It may seem like a daunting and impossible task at first but at the end of the day, it is just a skill like all other skills that requires practice and patience. Conversations introduce you to people, important people who could be your mentors, employers, employees, partners or friends. Without conversations as the foundation for those relationships, you’ll have a hard time building a social circle, starting a business or advancing your career. Arguably, it is one of the most important skills to learn when entering into the professional World.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind of when initiating conversation:
1. Be polite
This is an easy yet often overlooked part of beginning a conversation. Be nice. Be kind. Be honest and sincere. First impressions can be the last impression if you’re not careful. People are much more receptive to someone who has a positive attitude and an open, friendly body language.Try not to cross your arms, appear distracted or let your eyes wander. Maintain eye contact when you can and go out of your way to show that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say.
2. Learn to be a good listener
Do you ever feel offended and irritated when someone does not remember your name or does not remember how to correctly pronounce your name even after you have corrected them multiple times? And by that point, you just want the conversation to end? Well, that person is a bad listener. Remember, no one is obligated to keep talking to you so make sure that you show them through your undivided attention to what they say that you value their time and are grateful to be talking to them. And give responses based on what they are saying so they know you were paying attention.
3. Curiosity does not kill the cat
As mentioned in the title above, be curious and do not hesitate to ask questions! A conversation without curious interjections every now and then is monotonal, dry and boring. It’s safe to assume that nobody wants to be part of a boring conversation. Questions act as a lubricant for conversations, helping it to move along much smoothly. Keep mental notes of what they are saying and try to keep thoughtful questions to ask them after they are done talking. Be specific and inquisitive in your approach.
4. Be well-informed
Don’t live under a rock- please! Keep yourself up to date with current political, social and anthropological issues. You will find yourself having a sense of ease and confidence to carry on a conversation when you have stuff to contribute to it. This is crucial because oftentimes it happens that one runs out of things to talk about and in order to avoid any awkward silences or unbearable small talk, knowledge of current issues is a powerful icebreaker.