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Networking Without Power: Going Old School

Networking Without Power: Going Old School

networking

    Remember the old days of Rolodexes, before mobile phones had every gadget and gizmo now known to man (and woman)? Remember when we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with other businesspeople and had to actually, you know, talk to people?

    The way many of us network today, using online social networking and keeping track of things via Blackberry, iPhone, PDA and other “smart” devices, is superior in many ways to the “old” way of doing things. However, there’s a lot to be learned by going “old school” with your networking and heading back out into the real world. Today I’ll talk about some of the reasons old school networking outweighs the new 2.0 version, and how you can reconnect with your old school networking roots.

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    Online, you can reach more people, but the connections you build in person are stronger.

    Sure, in the Brave New World of online networking, you can generate infinite LinkedIn connections and five thousand Facebook “friends,” but are they really friends? Are the folks you’ve just connected with people you want to know and do business with? How well can you get to know someone and their business without actually talking to them?

    In the 2.0 world of networking, something’s been lost in the connection. These days, a lot of people connect with you just to increase their list of followers. But who are they? Connecting with someone on Facebook or LinkedIn without talking to them and getting to know them is akin to throwing a business card at someone as you walk past them. It’s neither effective nor does it represent your business well.

    Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals (a book I highly, highly recommend),  writes this golden rule of networking:  “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” When you meet someone in person, don’t you get a better sense of whether or not they’re for real than if you meet them online? When you meet someone in person and take the time to get to know them, you can tell if you can trust them and if they’re someone you’d like doing business with, as a potential client, in a joint venture, or if they’re someone you want in your Rolodex to refer business to in the future.

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    Check your marketing plan: you may not need to reach the masses.

    There are tons of statistics that suggest you can reach millions of potential buyers online. But if you’re a solo professional or a small business owner, you may not need to reach millions. You may not even want to reach millions. If your business is local or if you’re a consultant, reaching the international masses online may not make even the slightest sense for your business.

    Old School Networking And You

    In the old days, people sat down and talked to each other. They got to know one another — not just in terms of business, but personally. They connected with each other’s families, spent time together, and when you threw business someone’s way, you knew and trusted the person and could really count on them to handle the business you sent them.

    Get Involved.

    So how can you get back to basics and go “old school” with your networking? For one, the kind of old school networking I’m talking about isn’t the kind you find in networking groups and events. It’s about enriching your life while also enriching your business. Now’s the time to volunteer and get involved and active in your local community. Get to know the other volunteers and their families. Expand your net of friends and business associates. Connect with your alumni group from college, join your local Chamber of Commerce. Sign up for just-for-fun sports leagues. These are the ways in which people used to network and these connections are stronger and farther-reaching than those of your Twitter followers.

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    You Never Know Who Someone Knows.

    Stop worrying about “qualifying prospects” and instead, get to know people. And as you hang out after a ball game, nursing a beer with your fellow players, remember that while you may not be talking to an actual prospect at that moment, you never know who that person knows. You may not have a direct business connection with someone, but you could very well gain indirect business through that connection.

    Throw Away Your Technology.

    Ok, so it’s great to have your phone or PDA up-to-date with all your networking contacts at the touch of a fingertip. But if you’re going to go old school, consider really going old school.

    Believe it or not, studies have shown that technology can create social barriers in interpersonal interactions. First, it can disrupt the flow of conversation. Imagine your phone ringing while the person you’re with is talking. Not only are they distracted by the ringing, but they don’t know if you’re going to answer the call or not.

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    Second, it can get between you and the person. Did you ever notice the way people transform when they bring out their technology to schedule a meeting on their digital calendars? Instead of going tech to book a time, keep a pocket-sized Moleskine calendar handy and schedule it in pen. Not only will the meeting seem more important because it’s in indeliable ink and can’t be deleted, but you won’t be disconnected from the social interaction. If you really need to take notes during a meeting, don’t use your Blackberry. Instead, keep a Moleskine notebook and a pen in your pocket and bring it out when you need it.

    On the surface, technology seems great, because it promises a great time and personal energy savings. So we think it fixes everything. But sometimes, using technology for things we used to do in person can reduce our effectiveness. Although I’ve argued for an old school approach to networking in this article, I personally prefer a hybrid approach to networking. Use technology to support and follow up on your in person networking. And if you can’t network in certain locations in person, use the online world to bring those places to you. But never forget the key component to networking: getting to know people. Build relationships and you’ll reap huge rewards.

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    Susan Baroncini-Moe

    Susan Baroncini-Moe is an executive coach and business leader with over sixteen years’ experience.

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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