As I continue to achieve more success in my career, the way I socialise has progressed. Becoming more established has certainly made aspects of my life and business run more smoothly. But while I no longer face the struggles of my early career days, I am fully aware that it’s important to never become too comfortable or to wait for opportunities to come your way. This gives me an interesting and unique perspective into the art of socialising – knowing both what has worked for me in the past, what works for me now, and what works for those who now approach me. And as technology evolves, the art of socialising consistently reinvents alongside it.
As social creatures, we are attuned to subtle nuances. Entering into a social situation without the right approach can often close more doors than it opens. And actually, a good, lasting impression has more to do with your mindset than the actual words you say. In other words, perfecting the art of socialising means starting with yourself.
Be authentic... In the opportunistic world we live in, networking has become a lot like speed dating. It often feels transactional, rushed, and empty. Ten out of 10 times, this approach fails to make an actual impression. Instead of asking someone what they do, or handing them your card, try asking about them as a person. Find common ground. Don’t think about how a person can help you, but rather focus on a real connection first. I may not be best friends with everyone I work with, but if I can’t see myself having dinner with a person or being able to chat with them on the phone, chances are I won’t want to work with them either.
Know your worth... Before you can know others, you must first know who you are. Understand your assets and own them. And while I don’t recommend pitching yourself immediately, knowing your worth and what you have to offer will help to put you on equal standing.
Make it a fair exchange... Part of what makes socialising such an art form is the delicate balance of give and take.Don’t think about what you need from a person, but rather, what can you give them? You don’t need to own a lot or even be incredibly successful to do this. It can be as simple as being a good listener. Being intuitive to a person’s needs is essential to knowing how you can also become invaluable to them.
Put your phone away... These days, we’re so used to looking at our phones every second of every day that we’re unable to actually focus on anything. This goes for socialising as well. While quite a bit of socialising is now done on our phones, it’s important to separate this from face-to-face interaction. Even if you’re not actively using your phone, having it light up with a text or notification can derail the rhythm of a conversation. Physically putting your phone away signals to a person that you are fully focused on them. It’s a sign of respect. And in this day and age, a simple action like this is significant.
Pick up your phone... Just as it’s important for you to know when to put your phone down, it’s just as important for you to know when to pick it up. Next time you want to get somewhere or get something done, try just picking up the phone and calling someone. You’ll save days of email back-and-forths or extended pauses between texts. Plus, you have the added bonus of getting to know a person better through conversation and small talk. And believe me, sharing a quick joke over the phone or asking about someone’s family will be far more memorable than any email intro.
Practice, practice, practice. Socialising in real life is a skill – and with every skill, you constantly need to practice. I often feel concern for the next generation, who has grown up surrounded by screens, from computers to iPhones and iPads. Socialising face-to-face is becoming less and less the norm, which is precisely why it’s so essential that it be regularly practiced. The more technically advanced we grow to be, the more valuable our face-to-face socialising skills will become.