How to Shmooze
By Mark Meshulam
Definition: talk idly or casually in a friendly way
Gearheads like me have trouble understanding that great ideas and hard work aren't enough... you gotta shmooze too. Every day we deal with peculiar life forms called "humans", and they have needs beyond the performance of tasks. They like to connect on a human level, too.
Even non-gearheads need this reminder. Sometimes they are trying so hard to get the job done, or are just uncertain and uncomfortable, that they forget to blend this critical element into their work.
Have you ever been frustrated seeing a back-slapping moron doing very well in business, while you, the much more capable one, are struggling? Then these ideas are for you. When working with customers, vendors or co-workers, try this:
1. Don't start by diving into the task. Spend a couple sentences warming up first. A simple "How was your weekend?" followed by listening to the answer, will start the interaction on a human level.
2. When you listen, listen also for the emotional tone of the response and respond to it. Example: if the person is harried, consider saying, "Hey, you look like you are under a lot of pressure right now... what can I do to help?" And mean it. And try to help.
3. Sprinkle the person's name into your conversation once or twice. People pay more attention when they hear their name. And it brings you closer to her.
4. Smile and relax. Putting yourself in a good, balanced attitude will help her get there too.
5. Don't take yourself too seriously. Recognize that we are all imperfect and struggling. Share a bit of your struggle and recognize theirs. Example: "Wow, I tried so hard to get this done, but it was really tough. I know you must be having a hard time with your part of it, too. "
5. Create alliances as opposed to adversity. In business we are constantly trying to get someone else to do what we want them to do. Frame your request against a backdrop of mutual benefit. Instead of, "I need this...", try "In order for us to reach our goal, I can accomplish this if you can do that."
6. Observe people you consider to be good shmoozers. Note what behaviors are effective and try to add them to your skill set. The art here is to still be yourself at the same time. Think of it as an adjustment to your approach rather than a complete redo. If you have been a vocal non-golfer, don't suddenly morph into Tiger Woods overnight and expect to be taken seriously.
7. Try to gain a clear vision of the difference between who you are, and what you do. The former is called personality, the latter is called behavior. Personality is very close to your core. Behavior is actions which you undertake. Developing shmoozing skills involves experimentation with your behavior.
But the real beauty of working on your shmoozing is that the positive responses you will get from others will, in turn, be gratifying to you. And this response will make you happier and more successful, which in turn will go right to your core.
What started out as developing a business skill has a real chance of actually enhancing your life. Is there a reason to wait?
Copyright 2005 Mark Meshulam
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