Friday, October 5, 2012

Networking by Listening: Say What?

Yeah, I went for the cheap title today. What can I say? Today's post is quick and dirty because I just read what is the coolest quote ever. Or at least it's the coolest quote I've come across in the last five minutes.

Seriously, though, the quote comes from a September 14, 2012, article on Inc.com by Jeff Haden, called "Best Way to Introduce Yourself." It has some great tips for getting to know others, enjoying networking opportunities, and not being a jerk while doing it. That's useful information for writers. And in talking about the skill of listening, he points out:

"The best connections never come from speaking; the best connections always come from listening."

That idea resounds with me, because I have found it to be so true. Think back to the last time you met someone who only talked about themselves for your entire "conversation" with them. Do you remember how long it took you to start wishing you were out of the conversation (which was more like a monologue)? Probably about 30 seconds.

Now, think back to a time when you met someone who turned out to be a good listener. How did you feel when you were done talking with them? I'll bet you'd be glad to talk with them again. Maybe that person is a good friend to you now, or a business partner, or a spouse.

Listening works.

I've been told I'm a good listener, and that's probably partly because I like to get my bearings in a conversation and get comfortable before I truly open up. I'm a tester, I guess you could say; I test the waters before jumping in. But I also really enjoy people, and it's fascinating what others say and do. People can be endlessly surprising, in a good way, if you'll let them. And it takes listening for those good surprises to happen.

Listening works well for me. I meet lots of interesting people that way, and I've made some great friends.

But the other thing that's really cool about listening and networking is this: If you pay attention to what others say, you can figure out at least one thing that they like or need. And if you come across something that they like or need, you can share it with them. That is, you can give them something. Like, recently... (And yeah, I'm being slangy today, quick and dirty, remember?)

But as I was saying, recently I connected with someone on Twitter who wanted an editor for her middle-grade fiction book. It so happens I have another Twitter friend who writes and edits different things, including fiction for young readers. And he's been looking for work. I knew that about him because I was listening. So, I hooked them up because the connection made sense. It seemed like they could probably help each other.

Cool. Frankly, I just like connecting people and seeing what happens. It's fun for me, and I like the idea that my friend might be able to help that writer out, and if so, they'll both benefit.

But I also find that paying attention and helping others brings good things back to me. Karma. Whatever you want to call it. I call it good business. Who wants to work with someone who only cares about their own bottom line, especially if there's someone else out there who cares about your bottom line too?

Listening definitely has its advantages. And it's a good way to give yourself perspective on life. It's all too easy to get stuck in your own little world, when there's a bigger, wider world out there for you to participate in. Listening helps you avoid that trap.

Of course, I'm not saying you need to be the sole audience of an excessive narcissist. If you're talking to someone who just wants to monologue, it's okay to walk away. But it's usually clear early on in a conversation if the other person is open to listening to you too. And if they are, it's not so bad to let them talk first and really hear them.

Now, you share! Tell me about a time you found listening skills helped you network with someone, get new business, find an agent, meet a girl... You know, whatever. I seriously do like hearing positive stories and good news, and this is a great topic to share on, so talk to me, people!

Copyright (c) 2012 by M.A. Chiappetta. All rights reserved.

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