You first learned this at about 1.5 – 3 months and although you don’t remember this momentous occasion, your parents probably do – your first genuine smile. Not the “I have gas” smile, but the light up the room, real honest to goodness, unpretentious smile. Think about it, you have years and years of experience by now and probably don’t even realize it is still your most powerful secret weapon, especially when it comes to networking.
As I have said before, networking is about building meaningful relationships. The best start to a meaningful relationship is a smile. A genuine smile. Not the cheesy, I am just smiling because I am supposed to smile, smile, but that natural smile that is so contagious that people can’t resist smiling back smile. A smile humanizes you and makes you more approachable and in networking that is extremely important.
Plus smiling improves your appearance, creates trust and rapport and overall just helps you and the others around you to feel good. And in networking, smiling shows that you are open to conversation.
As with all good things, there are some smiling “hazards” that you should probably avoid during networking such as:
- The closed lip smile which can give the impression that you are hiding something or harboring a secret. You want to be trusted, so nix the close lipped smile.
- The forced smile. I am sure you have seen these before, they are so, well, unnatural. Better to just not smile at all. If you’re not feeling it, don’t fake it. You don’t want to give the impression that you aren’t interested or paying attention.
- And definitely, beware of the sneer. This can indicate sarcasm and disrespect. Under the right circumstances and used in the right way, it can be funny, but most often a sneer will give a negative impression and you should probably avoid using it.
Instead, light up the room with that genuine smile you have been using for years now. Be natural and it should be effortless. Most importantly engage with the smile and let it lighten your face and draw in your eyes. You will be perceived as likeable and sincere. It can be contagious and others will feel more at ease in your presence. People will inevitably smile back and feel happier.
So the biggest takeaway from this post is simple —remember to smile. Even with your years of experience, it can be easy to forget this powerful secret weapon of yours. Some quick tips to keep you smiling include:
- Before you pick up the phone to call someone to connect with, think about something funny or positive so the person you are talking to can “hear” your smile.
- Before you go to a networking event, remind yourself to smile so you are more approachable.
- Before going on an interview, think about your positive attributes and use your smile to increase your confidence.
Are you a strategic networker? Click here to take a quick quiz and find out! The answers may surprise you and you will come away with useful best practices.