Strategic Business Networking® specialist, Darryl Howes MSc, looks at how to navigate the seasonal office party and take advantage of the opportunities it presents.
Maybe you dread the seasonal office party? But like it or not, it’s a great opportunity to network in a way that isn’t always possible at other times of the year.
This is because the gatekeepers who normally guard access to those at the top of the organisation are occasionally granted a notional night off!
And also, because we never quite know who we might meet or the effect they may have on our job and career.
There’s lots of advice out there about what we shouldn’t do at the office party, so let’s set out some networking strategies that accentuate the positive and give us an opportunity to shine.
We know that being perceived as likeable when meeting people is a big plus. In fact, likeability is one of the six influence and persuasion principles identified in Dr Robert Cialdini’s seminal work ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’. But if we weren’t fortunate enough to be born under a lucky star, how can we go about being likeable? Well there are certain things we can do. Let’s call these Networking Niceties…
- Smile! The smile, when used as a component of a first impression, is a world beater. In Heidi Grant’s book ‘No One Understands You: and What to Do About It’, eye contact, nodding and smiling are listed as the three key physical indicators of warmth.
- At the start of any conversation, try to listen more than you talk. Remember the technique of reflecting. This involves repeating the last few words of what your conversational partner has just said e.g. ‘I had a fantastic holiday’, to which you reply simply ‘Holiday?’. This prompts the other party to open up further on the topic. People generally appreciate being given the conversational space to tell their personal story.
- If the one-to-one conversation with the boss is going well enough to press your case, don’t ask for help. Instead, ask for advice. Advice seeking has four clear benefits. Firstly, it provides an opportunity to learn from others. Secondly, it offers a different perspective; both the adviser and the advice seeker start to understand each other better. Next, it’s a way of facilitating commitment; the adviser starts to take a stake in whatever our objective is. Finally, advice seeking is a form of flattery. Being asked for advice is always a pat on the back.
- Step forward, don’t step back. This is a great technique known to many professional actors as a key element of stagecraft. Have you ever been asked a question to which you don’t know the answer? How do you react? Most people automatically take a step back and literally ‘go on the back foot’. The alternative is to lean in toward the person posing the question and say something like ‘I don’t know, but I’d be interested in the answer!’ A simple action, but one that has potential to position you in a much more positive and likeable light.
- If all of this sounds a bit too touchy feely, you’ve hit upon an interesting paradox. We can engage in certain behaviours to be likeable, but when we want to appear competent we often do the opposite. We speak more than listen, over-focus on our own accomplishments and demonstrate our expertise by challenging the views of others. The answer is to emphasise those elements of our behaviour that don’t risk being labelled as fluffy, but none-the-less highlight the moral aspects of personal warmth. We can do this by demonstrating traits such as fairness, honesty and responsibility, all of which build trust with other people.
So, that’s all we need to do to be more likeable when chatting over a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine.
But perhaps the best advice is make sure that, come what may, we do attend the party. Because the old networking adage is true: If you don’t go, you’ll never know!
Darryl Howes MSc, speaker and published author, is the Managing Director of Strategic Business Networking®. He works with individuals, companies and organisations to develop membership engagement and networking and career management skills. Join the SBN LinkedIn Group and follow the YouTube channel for more tips from Darryl. firstname.lastname@example.org