They say your network is your net worth. So as an engaged professional, you’ve probably already embraced the value of building a strong network. But what about the way you go about kickstarting professional relationships? Do you introduce yourself to a crowd of people or tend to wait for others to come to you? Do you lead with fun ice-breakers or favor a more reserved approach?
Whatever the case may be, understanding your networking style can help you get a better idea of who you are in interpersonal scenarios as well as improve your ability to form genuine connections.
“Networking styles can reveal information about what a person is like because people usually have a tendency to network in a style that they prefer to be engaged in,” says business, counseling and networking specialist Michael Ha.
This means that not only does understanding the different styles of networking help you hone your own skills, but it also reveals key insights about others so you can adapt the way you engage with them — and ultimately follow up if your meeting was successful. “Any professional can learn to adapt their networking style to match the other person’s style and increase their relational effectiveness,” says Ha.
“The advantage of knowing your networking style is that you know your sweet spot and where you feel most comfortable. You can make the most of it by networking with people who share your networking style because you will feel the most comfortable and natural with it. You can also consciously step outside of your comfort zone to practice other styles and give yourself the grace and room to grow.”
In order to break down what your networking style says about you (and how you can go about making the most of it), Ha shared insights around the first few seconds of meeting someone — and it turns out you can tell a lot about yourself and others from the moment you say hello.
The three types of greetings
First impressions happen in an instant. And the way you introduce yourself can actually give clues into your personality and what you value.
Ha broke down three types of greetings for us: The hug or warm embrace (showcases that the person is warm and friendly), the high-five or really unique greeting (reveals the person is driven, confident and cares about leaving an impactful impression), and the polite handshake (shows that the person probably values personal space and doesn’t want to be frazzled or met with a lot of excitement and high energy).
“The ‘hugger’ likes to feel connected to, and close with, other people and they may literally move closer to the person that they are networking with. One point that this person can improve on is their awareness of how physically close they are to the other person. If the other person likes their personal space, the hugger may want to back up just a little bit and be mindful of their natural tendency to move closer,” he says.
Are you the type to be more touchy? Be mindful of the body language of the people around you. Ha says that if your interlocutor steps back during the conversation, it’s a cue not to move in closer. And if you’re the one meeting someone super warm and friendly, you can use that information to be strategic about your next steps and aim to follow up with a more casual approach.
There are people who like to initiate conversations with bold openers and a lot of enthusiasm. They may even have an unconventional approach and shock you a little bit with their energy.
“The ‘high-fiver’ prioritizes and values excitement. They will usually want to network with other people who also value their image and are more high-energy. They can improve their networking style by slowing down a little bit to walk through the crowd instead of running through everyone. They can also aim to take the time to listen to the other person and not always seek excitement,” says Ha.
So, if you’re super enthusiastic and love to showcase your bold personality, remember that sometimes listening is the best conversational skill of all. If you are shyer and are having a conversation with a big personality, take advantage of the fact they enjoy the spotlight and ask them lots of questions.
Now, what about the polite hand-shaker? Do you long for the days when professional meetings were a little bit more formal? Are you more reserved? If so, you might value more structure — but it’s important to remember that sometimes the occasion calls for loosening up a little bit.
“This person is likely to prioritize and value order. They most likely dislike interrupting the other person (or being interrupted) and they prefer to take turns in conversation. They also probably like their personal space. The ‘hand-shaker’ can improve on being a bit warmer and spontaneous in their networking style.”
If this sounds like you, Ha recommends you try stepping out of your personal space a little bit or practice giving a hug or two to networkers who approach you in a more informal way. And if you’re the one coming across someone more reserved and professional, let them warm up to you before firing off slightly inappropriate jokes.