three men and a woman at a networking event

Building Strong Relationships, Pt. 2

Have you ever encountered someone whose smile doesn't quite make it to their eyes? I did just last weekend. It was a business acquaintance - she said all the right things, but I never quite felt like what she said was genuine. So, no, I don't think I'll hold my breath waiting for her to call this week. 

In his book, "Linchpin - Are You Indispensable?" Seth Godin talks about the culture of connection. Virtually all of us make our living engaging directly with other people. When the interactions are genuine and transparent, they usually work. When they are artificial or manipulative, they fail. If you'll remember, in part one of this series on Building Strong Relationships I introduced the linchpin - people that love their work and turn each day into a kind of art. When you meet a linchpin you can tell - they make you feel special, important and appreciated.

Linchpins are especially evident at networking events. They are the ones that look you in the eye when they greet you, give you a firm handshake and make you feel like you're the most important person to them at that time in that room. 

So while we're talking about handshakes and eye contact, let me talk about the awkward name tag glance. You know what I'm talking about - you encounter someone that you've met before, but can't recall their name. Fortunately, they're wearing a name tag, but it's either on their left side or hanging around their neck on a lanyard, dangling at about belly button level. It's awkward to look for their name without appearing obvious, right? One way that you can become a linchpin is to help others out of that awkward moment by wearing your name tag high and on the right side. Yes, you heard me - on the right side. According to the Emily Post Institute: "Although it is easier for right handed people to put a name badge on the left side, they correctly are worn on the right side so the person shaking hands or greeting has easy eye contact with both the person and the badge as a way to help remember the name or to see where he/she is from, etc." - EmilyPost.com, May 13, 2009.

But back to the awkward name tag glance, and how to avoid it. When you encounter that person you've met but can't recall their name, don't allow your eyes to immediately go to their name tag, wherever it is placed. Look them in the eye, give them a firm handshake and a warm, genuine "Hello, how are you?" Then, as conversation continues, you can surreptitiously glance at the tag without it seeming quite as obvious. They may still notice that you've done so, but I'll bet they will still feel more special, important and appreciated than if you'd made it obvious you couldn't recall their name. Give it a try - it's going to take some practice, but if you're truly a linchpin - one that turns each day into a kind of art - I know you'll get it!

Workforce, Coworkers, Networking

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Portrait of Ann Merrifield