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“Behind a panted smile, my life’s a masquerade a world of lets pretend” – The Isley Brothers

Like in the song ‘Behind a Painted Smile’ do you feel you are masquerading and pretending to be someone that you are not? The festive season is upon us and the time for social gatherings, but sometimes parties and festive get togethers make us more fearful than joyful. Do you dread social gatherings at this time of the year? Then think ‘win win’ and seek to win more trusting relationships at work and at home. As much as we may look forward to seeing friends, relatives and or acquaintances at Christmas as any other time of the year, we may be anxious how we come across. Christmas with work colleagues, in-laws, relatives even close friends can be stressful.
According to the psychiatrist Carl Young extroverts get energy from being with others and for them the night is always young. Introverts may feel that too many people are present at a gathering and that crowds are lonely places. We all have varying degrees of extrovert and introvert within us. Therefore, even the most ardent party goer needs time to rest and those who normally like to retreat from the world may come out of their shells. Improve your networking in 5 steps this Christmas

Whether it’s a Christmas with old or new friends or acquaintances here are some tips to get you through the party season.

• The Power of Body language
Stand tall, relaxed but confident. Have a warm smile and open body language with arms unfolded is most approachable. Read between the lines of body language to see what people are really thinking. When you get in tune with the person that you are in conversation with your body language is also in tune and you mirror each other naturally.
• Build Rapport
Building rapport is about helping people that you meet to see some benefit of investing their time with you. You have approx. 15 seconds to make a great first impression – and first impressions stick. Find some common ground and make a connection, if you can find something that you both have a common interest in you will build rapport much quicker.
• Work the Room like a Pro
If we could watch social gatherings in slow motion we would see the natural connectors working the room with ease, moving from person to person and having a number of conversations with almost everyone in the room. They may only ask a few questions but they know how to milk it and they know the value of having many short conversations with many people. Have a few opening questions in your armoury e.g. ‘How do you know the host?’ and ‘do you know many people here?’ People are usually happy to give a potted history of how that they know the host or other people at the event.
• Create Presence
Your own personal space is an invisible energy field that you create around you and if others can sense it, it must more than just imagination. Some indicators of your ‘presence’ are your posture, energy, smile, voice, eye contact. But there are more indicators including, attitude, thoughts and imagination. Take some time to develop these in yourself and watch your ‘presence rating’ grow.
• Communicate with confidence
Active listening is one of the most important things you can do when communicating, as communication isn’t a one way street. Taking the time to actually listen to what someone is saying can really make a difference in building a meaningful relationship at home or at work.

These steps are not just for Christmas but can be used for the rest of the year in developing your social and business networks. Why not take one tip at a time and try it out the very next time that you are in a social or business gathering and see if you can make a difference to your networking skills. You no longer masquerade behind a painted smile. Take your social and business networking to a higher level with these simple steps.

Gillian Kitchen

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