People want to hire, work with, promote and do business with others whom they know and like. If you were not born with the “gift of gab,” and many people weren't, you can still learn the skills to connect with others. Here are 10 actions that will help you to be more approachable, and to engage more easily with others in your workplace.
1. Put your phone away. Yes, you read that correctly. Keep your phone off the table when meeting with someone. Having your phone visible tells the other person, “I am so ready to drop you and connect with someone else.” This also applies to the Bluetooth device in your ear, or what I like to refer to as “the cockroach in the ear.” (Yes, I do have strong feelings about this!)
2. Don’t walk into a building or down a hall while talking on your phone. It is easy to ignore people when you are on the phone. You want to greet and acknowledge people. The person to whom you say “hello” on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you during the meeting – and by acknowledging that person in the hall, you have established minor rapport.
For those of you thinking about using Google Glass in the workplace, remember that it can make people feel uncomfortable. I suggest you read a New York Times article, Google Offers a Guide to Not Being a ‘Creepy’ Google Glass Owner.
3. Convey interest through your body language. Look at the person with whom you are interacting. Maintain a pleasant facial expression and nod occasionally when others are speaking. Additional information on verbal and nonverbal communication can be found in my new book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success.
4. Call people. Don’t communicate via email and text exclusively. Calling people on the phone when appropriate creates a more personal connection. Also remember to sound pleasant and enthusiastic.
5. Avoid the “Are you there?” syndrome. If the other person on the phone with you doesn't occasionally use verbal reassurances (such as “Oh,” “I see,” “really,” “okay”), you may be tempted to believe that person isn't listening to you, and feel compelled to say, “Are you there?” Verbal prompts also can be used when talking face-to-face, though less frequently, since your use of body language, as mentioned above, should also convey that you are listening.
6. Take notes with pen and paper. If you use a laptop to take notes, it draws your attention away from the other person. Plus, the raised back cover of the computer becomes a barrier between the two of you. An iPad or tablet can be less intrusive, and pen and paper still work well.
7. Prepare small talk. Knowing a little about topics that are important to your customers and colleagues will make it easier to make conversation. You don’t have to be an expert on every topic, but learn enough to allow you to participate.
8. Remember “The Blue Cord.” You want to use language that your colleagues/customers will understand. Using a big word that someone doesn't recognize when a simpler one is available can distance you from the other person. Some people understand what an “ethernet cord” is, for instance, but others need to be told, “It’s the blue cord.” In my last newsletter, I discussed using the latter phrase to remind yourself to adjust your choice of words for your audience.
9. Mingle with the participants before a meeting or presentation begins. Many people just take a seat and don’t talk to anyone. Be proactive. Go up to people, greet them, shake hands and make conversation.
10. Be social, the old-fashioned way. Go to lunch with people. It’s an opportunity to get to know someone outside of the business environment. Get involved in company activities. You will meet more people, and, depending on the activity—such as a company food drive--possibly help others.
These are not the only ways to connect, but they are important ones. As you go through your day, remind yourself of the value of connecting. Soon these actions will become second nature to you.
Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on communication, business etiquette and professional image. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.