Deep and genuine personal connections are important in my work. It is a personal value that shows up as compassionate curiosity toward the people I meet. I hadn’t realized until recently how much of a reputation I had built among my peers for authentic networking. That’s why I was honored, and a bit surprised, when a community of coaches and emotional intelligence (EQ) practitioners that I am a member of asked me to lead a session with the group on authentic networking grounded in EQ skills. Much of what we talked about in the group session is relevant to leaders who are dusting off their networking skills and opening up their calendars.
Maybe the first in-person networking meeting on your calendar is scheduled for later this summer or sometime this fall, or maybe it has already happened and you are thinking about the next one. Are you ready?
You might feel a little out of practice and your priorities may have shifted since you were last in a similar conversation. Now is the perfect time to tap into your emotional intelligence (EQ) skills to build authentic connections during networking.
It starts with your mindset. The first shift is to let go of the idea of transactional networking, which might amount to “How can this person help me?” Instead, look at networking as an opportunity to connect and make an investment in someone else. Take the time to get to know the person you are meeting by asking about their interests and sharing your own. Be generous with what you have to offer — whether it’s introductions, resources or even enthusiasm for the other person’s passions and interests.
There are many great resources available on networking, but these are two that I have found most helpful for building authentic connections: Friend of a Friend by David Burkus and Give and Take by Adam Grant.
You might be wondering, “What does EQ have to do with this?” The answer is, there are several EQ capabilities that will make you a more authentic networker.
When you have a good understanding of your motivations, emotions and energy, you have a greater capacity to take in information from others. Knowing who you are and how you operate is important when starting a new relationship, professionally and personally. Self-awareness also brings your personal values into focus so that when you are connecting with someone, you can see the most authentic ways to strengthen the connection in alignment with your best self.
Tips for building self-awareness:
• Pay attention to your emotional triggers.
• Revisit your values.
• Stop judging your feelings as good or bad.
There’s an old saying about loving yourself before loving others. Self-regard works a little bit like that. When you respect yourself and feel secure in who you are, you are able to connect from a place of generosity and groundedness. You know your worth and what you bring to a relationship. If you have high self-regard, you are unlikely to be distracted by comparisons during networking because you have a clear and positive sense of your strengths and contributions.
Tips for finding self-regard:
• Check out Mastering Your Inner Critic by Susan Mackenty Brady.
• Seek out anonymous 360-degree feedback.
• Pay attention to the impact your emotions have on others.
Creating space and understanding for others' needs and feelings is a demonstration of empathy. Tapping into emotional and body language cues through active listening makes the person you are in conversation with more likely to feel understood. This is an important attribute for an authentic relationship.
Tips for demonstrating empathy:
• Consider the personal experiences of others.
• Work on becoming a better listener.
• Make a conscious effort to demonstrate compassion.
Once you have taken your EQ inventory with each of these individual skills, take a step back and think about your approach. Be proactive in your networking; connect with people before you need something if you can. Share your time and resources. Plan to listen more than you talk. Be curious and creative. Act as a connector for others. Be useful.
By taking this approach, you will build a reputation for generosity and reliability. When you find yourself in a position of needing support, your network will be primed to help you. But hopefully, a bank of networking credits isn’t your only motivation! If you approach networking with intention, you will likely meet people whose expertise complements your own, people whose career paths feel familiar to your own journey and others who inspire you with their approaches to work and life. And that sounds like more than enough reasons to build your network to me!
*This article first appeared on Forbes.