How to Network with Meaning

Business etiquette is not exciting. It warrants no public accolades or awards, and yet the lack of business etiquette can cost opportunities, relationships,  and even businesses much more than we even know.

How so?

At the core, business etiquette is awareness and consideration mixed with empathy and an added flare of timing. Business etiquette in action is everything from your first impression to your lasting reputation. It’s having effective communication, professional behaviors, and thriving relationships.

Four “beyond the basics” business etiquette in action include:

Smiling eyes get you the heartfelt introduction, and sincerity with interest gets you on the way to a true connection. Be real. Be positive. Be present. And, be about the other person. Smile with your mouth, your tone, and your eyes, and extend a hand for a quick handshake while making eye contact so the etiquette of the professional greeting while meeting is not lost.

Ask the right initial questions to get to answers that tell stories instead of responses that simply fill the time. Please stop asking “How are you?” and “Are you busy?” and “What do you do?” Yes, they are the most commonly asked questions in business, and yet they are the least thoughtful, most insincere asks of all.

“How are you?” is terrific if and when you really mean it, and you are willing to spend 20 minutes listening, really listening to the reply. Instead, if someone asks you, reply with “Good, thank you!” and move on. Asking it simply as a means to get to what you really want is not etiquette, it’s habit, and not a habit that creates engagement.

Skip asking “Are you busy?” too, as that gets us in a “battle of the busy” where we labor over how busy we all are and we get nowhere. Busy means nothing about productivity or time ownership, rather it sends us on a far-too-often negative path. Instead, please consider asking “What’s got most of your attention right now?” or “What is driving your success currently” in order to get on a positive line of questioning that ignites energy and engagement.

Finally, skip “So what do you do?” not because you don’t care, rather because most people don’t love what they do so you are inquiring about something that isn’t necessarily invigorating in the first place. Alternatively, add questions such as “What led you to your current role?” or “How did you discover your passion for your work?” or “What piqued your interest about this event?” if you are at a networking experience. These questions drive the conversation in a direction that keeps things moving forward.

Get permission for follow-through, and then do what you say you are going to do. Not everyone likes to communicate in the same way. By asking “If it’s appropriate…” you are getting the okay to keep advancing the engagement. For example, if at a first meeting, saying “If it’s appropriate, I’ll follow-through on this with the information and article we discussed.” After waiting for the agreement, simply add “Would you prefer that via email or text?” If you are planning to meet again, you have the opportunity to schedule with “If it’s appropriate, I’ll work on some dates for a lunch. Would you prefer I call, text or email you this week on that?” Whatever the response is, follow that lead. Unfortunately, most people use the mode of communication she or he prefers, instead of the way the receiver prefers. Business etiquette in action includes agility and desire to accommodate not because we have to, rather because we want to.

Show appreciation in words and actions. Being appreciative of someone can mean a hand-written mailed note, an article sent, or an introduction to someone else. Highlight, introduce, thank, and encourage early and often. Business etiquette means recognizing other’s strengths and successes, and not bragging about your own. Sharing stories for reference is a way to relate, and sharing someone’s success with others is a way to celebrate. Send a card, send a gift, and then expect nothing in return. The act of expressing gratitude is the action that matters.

So, without fanfare or recognition, let your confidence increase as you put this business etiquette into action…for confidence and results! ♦

Debbie Lundberg believes “how you present is how you are remembered.”  As the author of Beyond Networking 101 (and 9 other books), she is a certified life coach, certified leadership coach, and certified image consultant who speaks, facilitates, trains and coaches throughout the U.S.  She serves as a MacDill Air Force Base Honorary Commander, recent Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors member, Miss America Scholarship Pageant Preliminary Judge, University of Tampa Board of Fellow, and a University of South Florida (USF) faculty member in the Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education. In addition, Lundberg is the current Chair of the American Heart Association’s Circle of Red.

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