By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority
Men, you need to know this bit about the family because it’s true. When it comes to small talk, we come a very miserable second. Women are far, better at it than we are! We think differently, we behave different and we are different. Neither gender is better... just different. You will become an even better networker when you understand this and act accordingly.
Change the subject
Whenever I ask women what men talk about their answer is always football or business. Fellows, we are considered extremely boring by women. The more colourful of the male species can stretch to golf and cars. One lady got very animated on one workshop when I mentioned that men were not as good at small talk as women. No, it wasn’t the gender issue she had a problem with, it was football.
The previous evening she had been to a dinner where there were 10 people at the table. 2 women and 8 men, she wasn’t sitting near the other woman.
“Do you know what”, she told us, “for one hour, yes one hour” by now her voice had raised, “those 8 men talked football bl**dy football! Even though all my colleagues were senior to me and there were guests at the table I just couldn’t help myself. I asked them if we could possibly change the subject. Even then I felt they could have spent the rest of the night on the same topic.
In the great book Why men don’t listen & Women can’t read maps, Allan and Barbara Pease suggest, in Chapter 4, Talking and Listening,“It’s been known for thousands of years men aren’t great conversationalists, particularly when compared to women. For women speech continues to have such a clear purpose: to build relationships and make friends. For men, to talk is to relate facts”. They wrote it, not me, but hey come on everyone, true or what? If you want a real insight into how both sides think, read this book.
Networking is an inclusive sport not exclusive. Be sensitive to all the people in your group and consider their feelings and views.
The primary objective of a man’s networking is more business based and less orientated towards friendship. Women tend to be less obvious when building their networks and rely more on the personal relationship rather than facts and WIIFM (what’s in it for me). I can only generalise but feel confident in my thinking.
Men do generally use sport as an instrument for building relationships. Women find it easier to discuss personal information, families and friends. It’s just how it is. Women are subtler and more observant when networking. The greatest tool women have, female intuition, comes into play very quickly when meeting strangers. I can’t tell you the number of times my wife Trudie has said “Don’t trust her.” “Something unusual there.” “I told you she was no good.” And so on. The fact of the matter is she’s more often than not correct. This, by the way, is from a woman who gets on with everyone but can just seem to pinpoint the wrong ‘uns.
Back to Why men don’t listen… “A woman uses words to show participation and build relationships and so, for her, words are a form of reward. If she likes you, is buying what you’re saying or wants to be your friend,” she’ll talk to you a lot. The reverse is also true.
The irony for me is that whilst women make much better networkers they will be refusing far far more invitations than men to actually use their inherent and ingrained skills. Why? I know why but let you decide.
Women are skilled at the small talk but often don’t (comfortably) move to the business talk.
This is important, after all you are there to create a business opportunity. So do move on to the business at the appropriate moment.
The big differences when networking
Apart from the difference in conversation here are some more variations.
- As a general rule when talking to others women stand facing the person they’re talking to; men stand side-by-side. I believe this is again because woman give their full attention to the person they are with; men keep their options open. If the person they are talking to has no interest in them the man will be scouring the room looking for his next quarry! It goes back to the start of time when the women were bringing up the children, and networking... and we men were out there alone hunting!
- Toilets! I often recommend to women who think they will know no-one to go to the toilet as they arrive. Even if their hair and make up doesn’t need improvement. Why? Well I have been reliably informed they often get chatting in front of the mirror then they can make an entrance with their new 'friend'. Men don’t talk to other men in toilets!
- I find it hard to approach a group of 3 men at an event. Give me a mixed group or 3 women always. But for women they should always approach 2 or 3 men as long as they are standing in open format i.e. not closed looking as if they are ina rugby scrum. As long as they give eye contact to each , smile and asking something like, “Do you mind if I join you” they will always, well nearly always be welcomed in.
- And finally I believe there will be far more instances where a man will approach a single woman at an event rather than the other way round. For women readers: don’t hold back - that man is praying for someone to come and talk to them. You never know it could be your next biggest transaction. I believe as long as it is a business event there should be no gender issue here.
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.kintish.tv and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of both face-to-face and social networking.
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