It’s not necessarily personal: She might be way too tired. Worried about her holiday gift list. Preoccupied in general.
While it’s in your professional best interest to seize every networking opportunity that comes your way, knowing when to back off can have a similar payoff.
“Good networking does not have to start with business talk,” says Jane Gertler, principal at The Marketing Resource. “It's best to build a conversational relationship based on mutual interests no matter what they are. Establish that rapport and then build the business relationship! It will have a more real, sincere foundation,” Gertler says.
Before your next holiday party, remember that the worst offense is to blatantly network at a holiday party, says Kathy Bertone, author of The Art of the Visit. “People rushing up and asking ‘what do you do?!’ with the look in the eye which clearly broadcasts they want to either use you (or someone you know) for their own betterment or they want to see if your job is better than theirs, can dampen the holiday spirit,” she says.
Here’s how to avoid being that guy and realize when someone is really not into talking shop with you:
1. No Eye Contact
It’s all about nonverbal language. “When you start talking about work, are they looking around the room for someone else to talk to? Do they look agitated? Or, how about the classic incessant smartphone checking?
If you can’t garner eye contact while you’re talking, you probably have slim to none chance of actually networking with this person. Save yourself some time—move on.
2. Non-Committal Responses
If her answers are non-committal, like “Great!” or “uh huh,” they’re probably just being polite. Elene Cafassso, executive and personal coach, suggests changing “the conversation to something more generic or move along to speak to someone new after a few minutes.”
The same goes for closed responses or answers with another question. People generally love talking about themselves—but if you get short responses, then this networking opportunity is probably a no-go for now.
3. Subject ChangeThe subject change is usually pretty loud and clear—she wants to talk about anything but work. For instance, “If they switch to talking about avocation as opposed to their vocation, they’re not into you,” Gertler says, “When they talk about their favorite wine versus whining about their boss, they’re not into you.” Case closed.
4. She Asks if You’re Single
When someone asks if you are single or what you are doing later that evening, networking for business is the last thing on their mind.
“Don't try to change an attraction into a business relationship because it won't happen,” says Chris Gaida, celebrity escort and freelance producer. “They will never truly take you seriously.”
5. Alcohol is Their Focal Point
Notice how much a person is drinking. “If they are on their fourth drink, they are not there to network,” Gaida says, “One or two drinks to calm the nervous is acceptable, anything more and they should come across as a drunk.”
Alcohol is a notorious form of liquid courage — don't share too many details about yourself, says John Lyotier of Christmas.com. “Practice the age old technique of asking two to three questions for every answer you give,” he says.
6. She Doesn’t Ask Any Questions About You
If she has both short, closed responses and doesn’t really ask any questions about you, you’re probably looking at at least a moment or two of awkward silences. For quality responses, test the waters by asking neutral, non-invasive questions, suggests Kathy Bertone, author of The Art of the Visit.
“Instead of asking ‘What do you do?’ ask ‘What do you enjoy doing?’ You might want to ask, ‘So, what brings you to the party?’” says Bruce A. Hurwitz, Ph.D. and President of Hurtwitz Strategic Staffing.“By their tone of voice you should be able to tell if they are there because they want to be or because they have to be. Reciprocate the feeling. And wait for them to ask you a question.”
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