I haven’t always been big on smiles. Growing up, I was always the one to be reminded to “smile” in family photos, and even then I would forcefully stretch my lips till they hurt.
As you set your goals for the New Year, I want to encourage you to do 3 little things every day that will help you make meaningful connections this year, and take your networking game to a new level.
Smiling is one of the easiest things you can do this year that will help you establish a real and lasting connection with people. Did you know that it takes as little as 7 seconds to make a first impression? Why not do it with a smile? In a world where there are so many reasons not to smile; BILLS, disappointments, sorrow, pain, and responsibilities, for some, smiling may seem so difficult.
Personally, I wear my emotions on my face, so it’s so easy to tell exactly how I feel by merely observing my endless facial expressions.
Even while walking on the street, strangers have told me to “smile”. (To be honest, I find this really annoying)
One of the things I learned how to do last year was to smile more. It hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve had a lot of practice, oftentimes by modeling different smiles in front of a friend and asking her which smile she liked the best, or by using good old mirrors!
I often chuckle now when people say that I’m friendly. It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve had practice and smiling is the easiest way to break the ice.
P.S I still find it difficult to smile when I’m hungry.
Benefits of Smiling
- It shows compassion and care
- Calms fears
- Instils confidence
- Brings hope and lifts the spirits
- Puts a smile on someone else’s face too
Did you know that everytime you smile the brain receives a signal to release the happy hormone “endorphin” which in turn can be effective in calming and relieving stress, thereby creating a positive feedback loop of continued happiness?
Here’s your first assignment this year, Try smiling at the next person you see and watch what happens!
I took the picture below on the same day, which picture do you think looks more welcoming? Which picture says I’m open for conversation and ready to network?
“If someone is missing a smile, give them one of yours”
– Dolly Parton
2. Be Present and Maintain Eye Contact
Another easy thing you can do differently this year is to be 100% present in conversations and maintain eye contact during conversations. Lots of things compete for our attention these days, but to make a real connection with people, you want to put away distractions i.e. your best friend: THE CELLPHONE, and make a genuine connection.
Maintaining eye contact in a conversation makes you come across as confident, reliable, sociable, warm and honest.
I’m not saying keep gazing into people’s eyes non-stop. However, make an effort to focus when you connect with people this year.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”
– Maya Angelou
If you only have a minute to make a genuine connection with someone every day, make them feel like they are the most important person in the room for that minute, and they will long to be around you all the time.
I personally love the 10-4 Rule. When I am about 10 ft away from a person I make a conscious effort to smile, and then when I get within 4 ft of them I then say hello! It shows people that you are warm and open to having a conversation.
3. Address People By Their Names
One last thing you can do this year to make meaningful connections and be warmer and welcoming this year is simply to address people by their names.
A powerful way to connect with a person is to address them by name. It not only shows you value them but makes them feel important as well. Personally, it’s a turn off when people forget my name or call me the wrong name, and then proceed to ask me personal questions.
I know some people are genuinely forgetful, but you can improve on this skill by asking for a brief history behind the name or the meaning of the name when you first meet a person, and by using their names throughout the conversation. (I find that this is most helpful with non-English names)
You will be amazed at how many conversations I’ve started this way! People love to talk about their experiences. It not only makes them feel special, but it also helps me remember their names.
Always ask people how they will like to be addressed before you get comfortable calling them their first names. I find that in the African setting people love to be addressed by their titles. LOL.
In summary, smile more this year, be present in conversations, maintain eye contact, and address people by their names.
These 3 little things will help you connect better with people this year and improve your networking game.
Click on the player below to listen to the full podcast episode on “The Power of a Smile”.
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