The Benefits of Banter

The Benefits of Banter

When you enter the work world, there are a lot of competing priorities and making new friends and expanding your network usually doesn’t even make the list. That’s because when you were growing up, you generally didn’t need to put any effort into it because you met so many people via school and social activities. When you enter the “real world,” however, your life becomes dramatically smaller and you have to make an effort to bring new people and ideas into your orbit. It’s not hard, it just needs to become a habit.

How many opportunities have come your way due to relationships you’ve had with people (or friends of theirs)? Plenty, I’d bet. So how do you develop new relationships? Conversation. “Every relationship or major business deal started with a tiny conversation,” says psychologist Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., of Indiana University Southeast. “These seemingly simple exchanges are not really ‘small’ at all.”

“Your opening line doesn’t need to be genius,” says Carducci. “It only has to be simple and nice.” If you’re at a party or wedding, ask how the person knows the host. If you’re trapped at the airport, comment on what you’re both experiencing. It goes without saying (why is that a phrase?) that you should not be glued to your phone. Be approachable. Eye contact helps foster trust and connection, which makes it easier for others to say hello.

If you know you’ll see people you want to connect with, prepare for it. It’s smart to check out their LinkedIn profiles to discern their interests in advance. Your goal is to find potential topics of conversation so you won’t freeze when you see them. Don’t recite their accomplishments back to them or let them know by your conversation that you’ve checked them out. You don’t want to come off as a stalker. If your chat is really going well and you want to develop the friendship further, try to set up a coffee or lunch before you end the conversation.

For most people, job opportunities and leads on good projects come from their connection and relationships with others. It’s important that your network of relationships grow apace with your career so that you don’t end up stuck relying on the same sources of information as everyone else.