The secret to networking? Ask better questions

To build long-lasting, more trusting relationships at networking events, experts advise asking questions that people are excited to answer – and not just asking ‘What do you do?’

Who are you really ?

Dale Carnegie once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” It’s an approach the British politician Benjamin Disraeli clearly employed. When competing with William Gladstone for the position of prime minister, both men famously dined with Winston Churchill’s mother, who later remarked: “After sitting next to Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But when next to Disraeli, I left feeling I was the cleverest woman.” For those who didn’t know, Disraeli won the next general election.

Strictly business…

In short, the easiest way to connect with (and charm) people begins with asking them questions they’re excited to answer. It’s something to bear in mind when we’re attending a networking event, where the most obvious question to ask is, ‘So, what do you do?’ But nobody is likely to answer that with much excitement. They will go through the motions, and sure, you might still exchange business cards / contact details but the relationship will be ‘strictly business’.

Multiplex ties

Why does that matter? If we can connect with people on another level we can develop what sociologists refer to as ‘multiplex ties’. Relationships built on multiplex ties tend to be richer, more trusting, and longer lasting and that can be good for our careers and working relationships. For example, people who have at least one real friend in an office are more productive and tend to like their jobs more.

Stop talking shop

So are you wondering what questions you should ask? One expert on networking has some suggestions for icebreakers that people will be more excited to answer than ‘what do you do?’. Of course, you might be able to come up with others. There are no rules here. For expat partners looking to settle into new communities and make strong social connections, there is an extra incentive to stop ‘talking shop’ and get to know people on another level. You might not even end up doing business together, but who knows, the conversation might be ‘the beginning of a beautiful friendship’.

Photo: Sebastiaan ter Burg – Flickr

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