I spent the evening at an MBA graduation formal.
Normally being surrounding by MBA graduates and their type A personalities for 6 hours would be a bit overwhelming for me. But I decided it was a good way to take me out of my comfort zone, and move me towards my goal of building more relationships. My goal for this event, was to try some advice in an article I read many months ago, about treating relationships like a game of golf, keeping your numbers low.
The idea behind relationship golf is to focus on making 1 or 2 very good connections instead of just running around trying to meet everyone.
When trying to connect with someone in a short period of time. I learnt that you should focus 90% of the conversation on them. People love to talk about themselves. Ask them what they are up to, what they have done and where they plan to go. Listen carefully to the conversation, as they generally will give you openings to continue down different lines of conversation.
For example, if you ask a person what they do for a living. They may say accountant at XYZ firm. My follow up question would then be, what type of accounting? If they say tax accounting, I would ask them about any interesting stories of tax savings or tricks they did.
People generally are very interested in their craft, if you dig deep and listen carefully you can find countless things for them to talk about within their domain. For example, any new laws passed by the government that they are affected by. Or how they see the craft advancing or regressing.
I may not know anything about accounting, but if you take the position of the student, you can learn much from someone who takes pride in what they do.
As a side effect, by actively listening to the person you would have paid them a subtle complement. Getting someone’s attention in the world has gotten much harder, with all the media we are constantly bombarded with. It is rare for someone to give something as valuable as attention away. People notice this gift, and are more than likely going to return the favour when it’s your time to speak.
During the formal I ended up having good conversations with 3 people, and we will likely meet again to chat further to see how we can be of use to each other in the future.
Aim for small numbers of meaningful interactions, instead of spreading your time and attention far and wide.