4 Secrets of a Skilled Networker

connection quoteI used to have a co-worker who had the uncanny ability to light up a room the minute she entered. There was a positive energy in her personality that attracted people to her like hungry birds to a winter feeder.

Some people just seem to have an innate ability to connect with others, feeding their spirits with seemingly little effort. I bet you know or have encountered someone like this, too. What are their secrets?

1) Self-possessed. My friend was completely and totally comfortable in her own skin. She could be self-deprecating at times, but she was honest and very funny.

Key learning: Be yourself. Even if you don’t feel confident, act like you are. People can often tell if you act fake or disingenuous, but they can’t always tell that you don’t feel confident.

2.) Genuine. While she was an extrovert by nature, she was genuinely interested in other people. She had the ability to connect with people on topics she knew would interest them. A voracious reader and well-educated, she could discuss a variety of topics with a variety of people.

Key learning: You don’t have to be an extrovert to successfully connect with others. Educate yourself on your audience and their interests. Ask questions. Read the news, be aware and curious about the world around you.

3.) Charismatic. Naturally, there were people she didn’t like, but they couldn’t have known it. Charismatic people can calmly and smoothly engage difficult individuals while keeping their draining energy at bay.

Key learning: Keep conversation light and positive. Create boundaries to protect your energy level by limiting the conversation. “I have ten minutes to talk before I head out. What’s happening?”

4.) Empathetic listeners. Unless they are politicians, skilled networkers don’t usually feel pressured to change hearts and minds, but they listen carefully and exchange ideas gracefully.

Key learning: When you ask people questions, really listen to what they are saying. Empathize with them, brainstorm ideas to help solve problems (if they want advice), and share your experiences.

Side note….Disagree with something the other person said? If this is an area where you struggle––and many of us do––memorize this: “Hmmm. That’s an interesting viewpoint. I have a different opinion that I’d love to share with you, but please tell my why you feel this way.”

Usually people just want to feel heard, whether you agree with them or not. If you don’t feel you can talk about a particular subject calmly, say: “This is an emotional issue for me. I’d rather not talk about it right now.” But, the minute the conversation turns negative, disrespectful or angry say: “ Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.”

My friend was an example of someone who knew instinctively how to build community and connection and had the confidence to move fearlessly forward into the unknown to pursue her goals.

I often wonder where her networking skills and creative talents would have eventually taken her. Sadly, we lost her too soon. She died in a plane crash over Afghanistan while working for Boston-based non-profit. But, we can draw inspiration from her example. She was there doing what she loved most––connecting us to the people she wanted to help through her photography and her sunny personality.

What do you see as key skills of talented networkers you know?

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