How to Have Balanced Networking Conversations and Leave a Great Impression

May 31, 2021

balanced conversationsNow that we are moving back into in-person networking opportunities, we need to get comfortable with talking with people in real life. These conversations have the opportunity to be powerful for you, so let’s spend a moment talking about how to do them well.

Effective networking conversations are about balance. We need to balance how much we listen and how much we talk.

When you can bring balance into a networking conversation, your conversational partner feels listened to, and you feel like you’ve shared just the right amount of information about yourself, as well. This makes for a powerful opportunity because when they feel listened to, your conversational partner will think positively about you. And they’ll also know a bit more about you without feeling like you took the conversation over.

That sounds like a great networking result, right?

So, what does a balanced networking conversation look like? It’s easier to understand if we first get clear on what balance does NOT look like.

So, let me introduce you to my friends:

First, we have Hijack Harry. Have you ever started talking with someone about an experience you’ve had but before you got share any details, they started telling you about their experience? If so, then you too have met a Hijack Harry!

Another example - Let’s say that now that the world is opening up again, you’re looking forward to lunch with someone in your network. You can be sure that the topic of the pandemic will come up. Maybe they had COVID or someone in their family had it and as they begin to tell their story. Be cautious about jumping right in to share how you dealt with it, or how one of your family members got sick, or whatever your experience was. If you take over the conversation too early, you are no longer listening to their story with empathy and interest. Instead, you will have hijacked their conversation. They are no longer the speaker, but the “captive listener” to your story. Don’t let this happen!  Be an active listener not an active talker!

Next, we have Humble Hannah. She is more of an introvert and is perfectly happy to let you talk about yourself… maybe for the entire lunch. Hannah is uncomfortable sharing the spotlight and will more than likely downplay anything that might have happened during the pandemic. You might be all excited because you can talk all about your background, experience, what you could do for her. Throughout all of this, Hannah doesn’t claim any space for herself.

If you ever notice that the conversation feels one-sided because you’re doing all the talking, you might be talking to a Humble Hannah! Your best move in a case like this is to create space for your conversational partner. Invite them into it by asking something like, “What about you? What was your experience with that?” or “What about you? How did you get to where you are today?” and then, most importantly, wait quietly. Give them the space to claim their own ground in your shared conversation.

Ok – so now we’re clear on what balance does NOT look like. We’ve checked in with Hijack Harry, who takes over the conversation. And we’ve visited with Humble Hannah, who struggles to bring her own voice to the table.

What does balance look like?

I’d like to introduce you to Balanced Bailey. During a networking conversation, Bailey focuses first on you, and even stays there for a beat. She brings herself into the conversation briefly, and then moves back to you again. Bailey strives for balance between the speakers so she takes small actions to help make that happen. You feel listened to, and you’ve also heard from her.

I call this rhythm: “You, You, Me, You” (YYMY).  I talk about the YYMY rhythm extensively in my book, appropriately titled, You, You, Me, You: the art of talking to people, networking, and building relationships.

Whenever you are in a networking conversation, I encourage you to be like Bailey and strive for balance by thinking in terms of YYMY.

Here is what that looks like:

Y: Start by focusing on the person you’re speaking with.

Y: Stay there for a beat and ask a few questions about what they’re saying. This will help them feel listened to and you’ll learn a little more.

M: Talk about yourself, using something that your conversational companion has said as a base. “You mentioned that you love museums. I do, too! My favorite is…” When you do this, you create connection between yourself and your companion while also sharing something about yourself.

Y: Bring it back to them.

What next? Try it! Next time you’re in a networking conversation, try the YYMY rhythm. And then come back here and let me know what happened!

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