Ever been to a business conference and left frustrated due to meeting mostly poor communicators? People who don’t listen effectively waste precious time sorting out misunderstandings. Strong communicators practice empathetic listening because they are tuned in to the needs of others.
Setting Goals for Networking Communication
Before we explain how to show empathetic listening skills when networking, we encourage you to consider your goals for this type of communication. Common goals for business networking are forming new relationships that will grow your business and professional development. If you invest your time in attending a live or virtual event, give your undivided attention to the people you meet, which means eliminating the distractions of the typical workday. In addition, maximize the time you spend connecting with new business contacts. Take each opportunity to build a rapport between yourself and others, which will be your building blocks for future transactions. Otherwise, you will waste your time attending the event. In general, you should not attend events because your employer wants you to or a colleague suggests you will benefit from it. Networking events are helpful when you fully immerse yourself in the experience.
Why Practice Empathetic Listening
When you’re aware of your wants and needs, you can regulate your emotions and interact effectively with others. Emotional regulation and emotional intelligence make it easier to navigate unexpected situations and handle setbacks. The idea is not to let yourself be internally affected by external stimuli. Therefore, you can take this inner calmness, which you continuously maintain throughout the day, and use it to get more information from others. It pays to practice empathetic listening so others know you understand them and appreciate their ideas. You don’t have to agree with others, but take the time to fully consider their communications because they are offering you their precious time.
What is Empathetic Listening?
This form of listening shows others you are receptive to their communications. You can put yourself in their shoes, appreciate their perspective, and understand how they feel in each moment. The opposite of this is communicating from a selfish viewpoint and not listening when others speak. If you are constantly thinking about what to say, you don’t receive many subtextual messages from others. Without slowing your responses, you won’t process important details of a conversation. If you control your reactions long enough to understand what others share, then it’s easier to increase the quality of communication and avoid awkward moments and conflicts. If everyone practices empathetic listening, the world would be a more peaceful place.
Preparing Yourself for the Event
On the day of the event, get up early and mentally prepare for the workday. This includes practicing self-care routines, eating, exercising, and meditating before entering a loud environment. There will be many conversations taking place at once, and you must be able to focus on each person. You also need a way to track the connections you make, which might indicate the need for a notebook and a writing utensil. Alternatives are using a smartphone to get the contact information of others, or, if you are old school, bringing your business cards. Arrive at the event early or log in online early and prepare to be positive and practice active listening.
Showing Empathetic Listening
Remember, the goal of networking is building relationships. Therefore, focus on putting others at ease and reacting appropriately to what they say and do. Your body language, facial expressions, posture, and stance will show how much you care about the strangers you meet.
Examples of empathetic listening include the following:
- Use open body language. Don’t cross your arms or legs or fold your hands.
- Lean towards the speaker. If you step back or lean back, other people might feel you are afraid or feeling defensive.
- Address each person by name.
- Wait before you speak. Don’t interrupt another person.
- Don’t think about what to say next.
- Be open-minded. Don’t judge what a new speaker says. Tolerance will win you many friends in life.
- Nod your head and make appropriate sounds and expressions, such as smiling, frowning, shaking your head yes and no, and keeping your eye gaze on each speaker.
- Don’t keep your hands busy because this is a distraction. If you look away or fumble with your jewelry, clothing, or fingernails, you will seem disinterested in the speaker.
- Don’t let another person approach you and interrupt the conversation. Use a nonverbal signal as if to say, “Please wait a minute.”
Other Good Habits to Practice While Networking
It’s game time! At the event, practice being in the present moment, regulating your emotions, listening to what each person says, considering their perspectives and emotional responses, reacting appropriately, and staying positive. These additional habits will ensure you build mutually beneficial connections.
Write down what you will need to remember. Two different contacts might ask you to follow up when you return to the office. They might need a price quote or a resource you mentioned during the conversation.
Ask clarifying questions when you don’t understand what someone said. This isn’t always necessary, but, if your business relationship depends on it, investing this time is key.
Don’t look at your smartphone or take it out unless there is an emergency. This is poor etiquette because people will wonder why you’re talking to them if you have more pressing business.
Participating in Virtual Events
Some suggestions are hard to practice when you attend a remote event. You might use video conferencing software including tools like these: microphone, video camera, emojis, chat, shared documents, and digital whiteboards. There will be multiple participants in the conversation, and the people you send messages to may not receive them or respond in a timely manner. In such situations, take notes about what you’re learning from fellow participants and follow up with ideas and sidebar conversations at a later time. Many benefits of virtual events stem from the dialogue that occurs in real-time. If you choose to multi-task, then you won’t engage well with others.
In the end, you will have more success during networking activities if you focus on the conversations and make appropriate responses. Remember, people love to interact with positive and friendly professionals who are open-minded and thoughtful. They will remember you if you listen to them. Give them plenty of reasons to do business with you or hire you!