I spent the better part of an afternoon recently having a conversation with someone on my Southwest flight back home. Like many of us who travel frequently, I was bored, restless and looking for something to occupy my time. Keep in mind, the battery on my iPAD was dead and I was looking around aimlessly for some sort of intellectual stimulation.
I introduced myself to the woman sitting one seat over from me who kept trying to make eye contact and initiate a conversation. I tried like the dickens to avoid it at first but I caved in and allowed her in my world. I am a sucker for persistence. I was also really, really bored! I soon found out just how eager she was to tell me everything about her company, her current position, her skill-set(s), accomplishments and long-term aspirations. She went on and on about her entire career to include what she did, why she did it etc… I did not mind it so much but as she continued to talk, it dawned on me that she never once asked me about ME. I could not help but think of the famous quote by Mark Twain, “Most conversations are monologues in the presence of witnesses”. I now know what he meant.
In this case, I soon realized that I was in the middle of the Pacific Ocean without a life vest. A man can only doggie paddle for so long. I was polite and continued to listen to her ramble on about every nuance in her life over the past 46 years. Fortunately, the airline attendant began to serve beverages 45 minutes into the flight, which allowed me a break from this verbal onslaught. A diet coke never tasted so good. As things settled down, she stopped talking out of sheer exhaustion or maybe because I refrained from making eye contact anymore. Talk about awkward!! This encounter was a lesson of sorts for me in that it reminded me of just how quickly someone can enhance or damage themselves in just minutes. I was genuinely interested in her story until it became obvious that we were playing a game of tennis and she was the only one allowed to serve. Do you think I might have an interest in accepting her LinkedIn invite? Not so much…
Here are a few things that are an absolute must for networking effectively:
1) Genuine interest in people– Make a memorable first impression because without that, you will lose most people at hello.
2) Treat everyone you meet with respect and connect before you inspect– Make them feel important and take some time to learn about their interests, hobbies and their past too. You may never have an opportunity like the one you do at that moment to connect with someone and make a great first impression.
3) Your mission is to understand– Ask insightful questions, listen, learn, and seek to understand their motive(s), reasoning, attitude and frame of reference.
4) You are constantly in training so that you may help others– Knowledge is power if coupled with action! Every day is another opportunity for you to get better and help others too.