Does EQ really matter when it comes to networking?
If you have ever been trapped in a conversation with a close talker at a networking event then you know that it does. Lets be serious though for a minute, Ivan Misner is known to say that “Networking is not a face to face cold calling opportunity” unfortunately people with a low EQ often treat it as such. One of the advantages of BNI is that it supports you in honing your emotional intelligence and relationship building skills which in turn makes it much easier and natural to capitalise on opportunities as they arise without coming across as a high pressure old school door to door salesman.
Business networking is not just about throwing your business cards at people and collecting theirs so you can spam them with your daily emails, it’s about building relationships which in turn involves emotions.
Peoples behaviour is driven by their emotions and your behaviour in a networking environment is no different. How well you manage, control and express your emotions will have a significant impact on your success at a business networking event. Whether its introducing yourself, maintaining a conversation or exiting a conversation that has served it’s purpose, your capacity to understand both your own emotions and your ability to read others cues will be a deciding factor in how many relationships you successfully begin or cement at the event.
Lets do a bit of an Emotional Intelligence health check
Stage one – emotional awareness of others
Every person you meet at a business networking event (or anywhere really) is having an emotional reaction to you, to the event and to the world at large so here are some questions to ask yourself.
Can you easily assess whether people are interested or disinterested in the topics you have chosen to talk about?
Do you routinely look for clues to see if people you are talking to are comfortable or anxious with how close you are standing to them or where you are standing in relation to the rest of the room and exit and entry points?
How do you assess whether a person is interested and impressed with the questions you are asking or feeling wary of you?
Can you easily determine whether the group of people you have broken into is openly enthusiastic about your arrival or irritated that you butted in to their conversation?
Can you read whether the person you are talking to is keen to exit the conversation or afraid of being abandoned?
Can you discern whether someone is being polite and feigning interest in what you do or is genuinely curious?
If you fail to read the physical cues that signal changes in the emotional responses of the people you are networking with or worse continue talking at someone who is obviously uncomfortable or disinterested then you run the risk of being tarred with the moniker “cold calling networker” and jeopardising your ability to form meaningful relationships.
Lets just say that you finally managed to get that person of influence in a conversation, if you miss the fact that they feel intimidated by how close you are or the fact that you are talking over them or at them you may not only fail to take the relationship any further but they may also complain to others that they got trapped in a conversation with you.
Alternatively if you recognise that you are losing them or that they are uncomfortable you can change tack, move position to open up an exit lane and try a question designed to activate a different part of their brain.
A long list of questions and a slick elevator pitch is of no use if you can’t read the body language and emotional cues people give you in the face of your delivery.
Stage two – read the cues
Downcast eyes – often means someone is feeling uncomfortable or awkward.
Restless hands – can be a sign of impatience , restlessness and sometimes anger.
Hands on hips – this means they have lost all patience.
Hands balled into fists – this means they are frustrated or angry.
Arms crossed – this is a defensive stance , they may not want to talk anymore, crossing the arms means a person is trying to comfort themselves.
Widened eyes or raised eyebrows – you have surprised or shocked them.
Looking around – the conversation is over they are looking for an exit.
Clearing their throat – more often than not it signals some degree of discomfort.
Closing their eyes – generally signals frustration or irritation.
Rubbing their eyes – If you’re speaking with someone and they remove their glasses, pinch the bridge of their nose, and rub their eyes, they are probably not happy with something you just said.
Staring – Believe it or not, there are two reasons why people stare. Attraction is the main one, however, a lesser known second reason people stare is for dominance.
Sucking lips – may suggest a reluctance to express certain thoughts or emotions
Hand on heart – indicates sincerity
Arms relaxed at their sides – shows they are open to what you are communicating
Mirroring – If they are mimicking your movements and expressions this demonstrates agreement and a positive step in the networking relationship.
You should be looking for signs of both positive and negative emotions. Some of the people who are very hard to read may be enthusiastic about what you are saying but not show it on their faces. These subtle cues, when detected and responded to skillfully can make or break the success of your engagement with people during your business networking encounters.