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The Lost Art of Schmoozing

Brian Buck
221107 Lost Art
© Scotwork NA

It’s college application time. Many seniors around the country are stressing about their future. My daughter is one of them.

A few weeks ago, she met an admissions counselor from a school on the East Coast. She was impressed by what he had to say about the college — so much so that we decided to go visit and take a tour. As it turns out, the counselor my daughter met here at home, in Southern California, was the same one giving the informational session on campus. My daughter smartly decided to make sure he knew she’d made the trek and that she was very interested in the college. I was never more proud than when I watched her in action, schmoozing with this counselor.

Schmoozing (or building rapport) has seemingly become lost in our age of social media, having been replaced by thumbs-up or LMAO emoji. Once upon a time, when we had to talk with people far more regularly than we do now, we had a lot more practice at it. As with any skill, you get better at it by doing it. This skill, in particular, is important in terms of establishing a foundation for productive negotiations. The more that both parties know and trust each other, the more collaborative the negotiation will become.

It just so happens that my daughter has been getting a lot of practice as she’s networked with counselors, colleges, and other prospective students. As I watched her, she reminded me of a few things we all should remember when building rapport.

1) Find a connection or common ground. My daughter made an immediate connection with the counselor by thanking him and letting him know she was there that day as a result of his presentation. These kinds of connections are important because they create a bond. That bond establishes a shared experience that can be helpful throughout a relationship (no matter how long it lasts).

2) Actively listen to understand and appreciate. When the counselor talked about his adventure to the West Coast for the presentation that my daughter saw, she did a great job of making sure he knew that she heard him and was curious about what he was saying. Many of us fall into the trap of simply waiting to speak, but when we’re truly listening to the other person, and they know it, it gives them a positive feeling about us — and it frequently leads to them listening in return.

3) Ask questions and value their point of view. Asking someone questions about their position and listening to their point of view doesn’t mean you need to agree with them; it just means you’re taking an interest in them. I saw this when they started talking about restaurants. He shared his favorite seafood place — knowing my daughter is not a seafood fan — yet she asked questions about his favorite dishes, how he found the location, etc. He reciprocated by asking her about her favorite places to eat.

4) Be open and willing to share. It’s tough to have a conversation if you’re not going to open up about yourself. By opening up, you invite others in. This isn’t about sharing every little secret; it’s just about being present and open to the engagement. Since my daughter was willing to walk up to the counselor, be open, and engage in conversation, he was more comfortable with her and, therefore, more willing to share.

5) Be authentic. Schmoozing isn’t about being fake or inauthentic. Most people, I think, see right through that. The best schmoozers are authentic — they come across as genuine and someone worth talking to. My daughter was very much herself when talking with the counselor. She didn’t say anything that was over the top; she didn’t try to spin the truth or exaggerate to impress. She was genuine. I think the counselor saw that and appreciated the interaction.

When we got home, my daughter applied for early decision to this college. We’re hoping she gets in because it seems like a really good fit for her. I can’t say for sure if the conversation with the counselor will help her be admitted or not, but I do know that she was able to learn a lot just by building rapport with him — and that was well worth it.

We Can Help Your Team Build Rapport with the Other Side.
Is your team familiar with the lost art of schmoozing? If they’re unable to build rapport, they may also be unable to build a foundation for collaborative, productive negotiations. We can help! Drawing on nearly 50 years of real-world negotiating experience, we’ll assist you with getting better deals, saving time, and creating value for all involved — not to mention preserving and even strengthening relationships. Let us partner you with one of our advisers, ensuring that you’ve got the broadest view of your deal.

Talk to one of our experts today.

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