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Sprucing up your image.

We all know them: They walk into a room seemingly full of strangers and suddenly they're surrounded by new friends. They're like magnets. People who don't know them want to. You want to. But even more, you want to be like them. Well, you can.

Becoming that sought after life-of-the-Party type requires less innate talent than desire and effort. A simple exercise in self-assessment and self-improvement can help get you there. Here's where to start:

Reach out Being open, friendly and accessible draws others to you. Translated into actions, this one's simple: Smile and speak to people - a passing hello is fine, for starters.

Be knowledgeable. The best conversationalists can speak with authority on a variety of subjects.this doesn't require being a genius; it does require reading the daily paper. Sports and current events are two great icebreakers that can lead to lively and intriguing discourse on a much broaderscale. Know-nothings rarely sustain a captive audience.

Don't be a know-it-all. Knowing something is one thing. Beating your audience over the head with your knowledge is something else, observes Lilly Walters, author of Secrets of Successful Speakers. How You Can Motivate, Captivate & Persuade (McGraw-Hill, Inc, New York, $12.95). Remember, you want your smarts to attract not repel. Worse than a know-nothing is a windbag.

Court adventure. "To be interesting, you may occasionally want to be outrageous," says Anne Baber, a Lenexa, Kan.-based networking expert and co-author of Great Connections. Small Talk and networking for business people(Impact Publications, Manassas Park, Va., $11.95). Baber's not talking about wearing feathers on your head. Rather, she suggests playing "devil's advocate" or initiating discussions on unusual or emotionally charged topics, if appropriate, as a great way to inject energy into conversation. But beware: There's a fine line between initating a liven debate and igniting an intellectual bomb that could blow up in your face.

Lighten up. Many uptight professionals discover the simplicity of being engaging networkers once they stop taking themselves so seriously. What makes us nervous and uncommunicative is often a fear of appearing foolish or committing a social gaffe among people we're trying to impress. Try to remember that your every move isn't under scrutiny. And, in the face of that dreaded blunder, laugh.

Listen. Being an attentive and concerned listener is a skill that is undervalued and underdeveloped in most professionals. But the true key to being a good conversationalist is responding in a meaningful way to what's being said by others. You can't do that if all you hear is your own voice. Once you're identified as having a genuine interest in what people have to say, you'll find that they will readily pour all sorts of useful knowledge into your receptive ears.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:how to be lively at conversation with business contacts
Author:Baskerville, Dawn M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:456
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