I had to run some last minute errands with my daughter before going on a camping trip. Visiting the bank and high school wasn’t related to our trip but we need to before relaxing under the stars. When we finished our errands, she surprised me with an interesting observation. “I love going places with you,” she said. “Everywhere you go, you leave people smiling and happy.”
I never noticed it before. I thought about my interactions with the various people we met and I realized she was right. Each meeting began rather mundane but ended with a jovial, sometimes vivacious, closing of our conversation.
Now, I’m not a comedian. I don’t seek out people to make them laugh. I don’t even consider myself as funny or witty. I do try to be polite and courteous and I think that plays a big part in why those people were happy when I left. We are social people and we benefit from the social connections we make.
The best way to make social connections is by conversation. This can be as simple as saying good morning to a passerby or as in depth as discussing the deep meanings of life with a faith leader. Most of the time it is schmoozing with friends and colleagues.
Unfortunately, schmoozing has gotten a bad rap and not because it sounds funny. When we use it to make ourselves look better it comes off as ingratiation, or worse, brown-nosing. I call this an Eddie Haskell, after the boy from Leave It to Beaver. You may have witnessed this type of activity and cringed in disgust.
Although schmoozing has been used for nefarious means, a little strategic ingratiation can be helpful in certain situations. Ronald Deluga, a psychology professor who studies workplace relationships, found that a little flattery towards the boss can improve your standing by 5%. This doesn’t mean you have to rave about their outfit or laugh at every joke.
It’s also easier to get information or results with a little schmoozing. If you ever had to contact a customer service division of any company, you have been schmoozed. You may call in complaining, but a good representative will talk you down and find a way to solve your problem. You too can catch more flies with honey than vinegar by returning that same attitude. Being firm, direct, and polite with the rep will be more effective than shouting and swearing.
So how do we schmooze the right way? It may be difficult for some to feel comfortable with schmoozing. If we remember that we are social creatures, it will come naturally. It helps if we have a little knowledge about or a connection with the person we want to meet. If there is no one to make an introduction, it can help to listen to conversations among the people around us. If no good subjects come up, there’s always the weather.
Here are some additional suggestions for better schmoozing:
First and foremost, be sincere. Don’t try to make yourself out to be more than you are. A genuine person can be trusted. If we are genuine in our conversations we can earn a genuine relationship. If we are a teller of tall tales, our stories won’t have many listeners.
Be polite. Don’t interrupt a conversation just to get attention. When greeting people, use a firm handshake. Make eye contact when you talk with them. If we can’t show some basic manners, all the schmoozing in the world won’t get us anywhere.
There are two parts to having a conversation, speaking and listening. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Take some time to listen to others. Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so ask them some friendly questions. We may learn some interesting facts.
Keep it Short
P. T. Barnum said, “Always leave them wanting more.” A little brevity can go a long way. Have a light and cordial conversation. There is no reason to get into any deep subjects when you first meet. If things go well, leave with a mention to possibly meet again.
We need social connections in our lives. It is important to a healthy mental being, aids in learning through collaboration, and we may even make a friend or two. Schmoozing can bring some of those rewards if done right. Even introverts can benefit from a little schmoozing. So take some time to chit chat with someone before conversation becomes a lost art.