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Effective Networking by Learning to Listen

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These tips are applicable for networking whenever you are trying to engage your partner and form an important immediate connection as a foundation of a future follow up.

By Vadim Slavin (Managing Partner, Monthly Ventures)

I recently read a post by Fred Kofman, a professor of leadership and coaching, titled “7 Steps to Prove That You Are Listening”. It was addressing men, husbands, fathers suggesting how to open up the channel of communications with their wives, daughters, significant others. What was interesting is that I realized this was the intent only after getting to the end of the post. I read the whole thing with the impression that the tips were for effective networking for anyone.

Indeed, these tips are applicable for networking whenever you are trying to engage your partner and form an important immediate connection as a foundation of a future follow up. Here is how:

0. Listen. Unless you really listen, you are lying.

This captures the essence of effective communication. You cannot fake genuine interest so be genuinely interested in what your new contact has to say. This is their chance to show off and make the first impression. Help them make this experience easier. They will return the favor.

1. Focus. Look at her. Don´t do anything else.

I bet get jittery when someone is looking around trying to listen to you at the same time. Are they bored? Are you not impressing them? Do they not see the reason to continue the conversation? Are they sending you subtle signals that they want out? This is one of the items I covered in my previous post: Efficient Networking: Moving on from a Stale Conversation – don’t send the wrong signal. Focus!

2. Be quiet. Let her finish. Don’t interrupt.

This goes with 1. – same point here! Show respect but most importantly – interest, genuine interest to listen to what your potential future collaborator has to say.

3. Encourage. Nod. Say “Mhmm.” Paraphrase.

Listening attentively doesn’t mean you cannot show engagement. After the first brief resume to introduce themselves your partner essentially serves the ball into play much like a tennis player. Showing engagement by listening helps to get the ball stay in play longer before you figure out how long you want to keep the game going.

4. Summarize. Play back her essential point.

This definitively helps to keep the conversation going and reinforces everything said above. Be reasonable though, make the effort only if the conversation is valuable to you. Otherwise, be polite and move on.

5. Check. Ask her if you got her point, and let her correct you.

If you stayed in the new conversation long enough, it’s important or you are simply trying to earn good karma. Either way, solidify the foundation of trust and prove you have been listening. After all, wouldn’t you expect the same back?

6. Validate. Acknowledge she has a point.

Dale Carnegie once said that one of the most interesting and exploitable things of human psyche is the urge to feel important. Help your new friend feel important through acknowledgment of their intended message to you.

7. Inquire. Ask her what she would like from you.

To finish the conversation on a high note and to really impress your new contact, offer something right away. Nothing disarms people better than genuine willingness to help without asking anything back. Pay it forward and you will see that it comes back to you.

You can read Fred’s whole article here.

The tips above should help anyone make a positive genuine impressions on their new contact. Showing interest in your partner is the surest way to build trust and a personal connection which can become the foundation of a friendship or a business relationship.

Photo credit: Tara Hunt.

Women 2.0 readers: What are your tips for effective networking? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Vadim Slavin is a Managing Partner at Monthly Ventures. He is also a co-founder and COO of StartupMonthly, an organization which helps and supports entrepreneurs around the world. Vadim is an accomplished software engineer (12+ years), a solutions architect, experiential learner, tireless hustler, accomplished research scientist, and an entrepreneur with experience in advanced research in information science and human-systems interactions. Follow him on Twitter at @veeslavin.