5 handy networking tips backed by science

Networking is an essential skill for any business owner to cultivate relationships, find great opportunities, exchange best practice knowledge and build reputation in the field. However after more than a year being forced to be asocial, lots of us find that our social muscles have atrophied in some way.

As things start opening up, we might have to relearn to be in a crowded room with others again. How do we do it right? Here are all the vital tips to prepare you for future networking. 

Assume everyone likes you

Research says that we are more likeable than we think. The average person tends to take a rather low opinion of the impressions they leave. But we are often much more pleasant company than we think. So, smile and boldly introduce yourself. You don't have to win anyone over – people who aren’t trying to impress are usually the ones who do!

Ask for a small favour

If you want to connect with somebody and build trust, ask them to do you a small favour. This is called the Ben Franklin effect. In his autobiography, Ben Franklin shares a story of how he turned an enemy into a friend by simply asking him for a favour: lend him a book. It turns out doing a favour for someone will cause us to like them more or be willing to invest more time and effort into them. 

Create curiosity

In the early 90s, George Loewenstein proposed something called the information gap theory. The idea is that when we are presented with a new piece of information, there is a gap between our knowledge and the new information. This gap piques our curiosity and compels us to uncover the missing information. It’s like an itch that needs to be scratched. When meeting someone new, try to create intrigue, look for ways to make your introduction more engaging and interesting to the other person.

Use novelty

What makes someone memorable? A large part of it has to do with novelty – things that stand out as different. Researchers Nico Bunzeck and Emrah Düzel found that a section of the brain known as SN/VTA responds to novelty. Have something that makes you stand out from the crowd, such as a clothing item, stories you tell, knowledge you share or the questions you ask. 

Ask Three Golden Questions

If you want to lay down the foundation of a relationship that is mutually beneficial, ask these questions before you leave any encounter.

  • How can I help you? 

Asking this means you are establishing yourself as a giver. You want to add value to them immediately with a suggestion, a referral or an opportunity. When you decide to provide others with an opportunity, you will find support from other people in your network. 

We can all agree that we are all constrained by time. If you want to build a relationship, figure out how you can make someone’s time more valuable and deliver an insight. 

  • What ideas do you have for me?

Your network is your net worth. Pick their brains, gain some new insight or instruction you didn’t have. It’s always good to hear about your idea from a different perspective. It allows people to add value to you as you (hopefully) added value to them.

  • Who else do you know that I should talk to?

This is one way you can find out about another potential connection. The easiest way to expand your circles is to connect with someone through whom you will meet many other people. 

Still, some hiccups are to be expected along the way so be easy on yourself. 

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