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The Power of Social Fluency

By: Annet King
Posted: June 11, 2008

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Landing great work, whether in the form of a salaried job or a project, may be influenced greatly by who you’ve gabbed with over pomegranate martinis at a casual-but-strategic gathering. The purpose of networking is to replicate nepotism when it comes to uncovering opportunities.

It’s certainly not a new concept that much of business success is who you know, more so even than what you know. You’ve all seen nepotism in action in the workplace: The boss’ ditsy niece gets the plum job and the newest flat-screen monitor while more talented and worthy, but less connected souls toil away in the shadows for half the pay. Not that you’re bitter! If you’ve played your karma right, maybe you’ve even been at the receiving end of nepotism or simply a strong social contact.

So even if you can’t be Tori Spelling, you still can meet the right people, volunteer for the right charities, attend the right seminars and get yourself invited to the right galas where work prospects are spread around as liberally as pâté on an onion cracker. Yes, it really is all out there waiting for you. And this method is valuable far beyond the treatment room. The skill of getting other people to talk freely about themselves is actually the key to true networking. When you’re at the market, at a party or in an elevator, remember that a casual exchange can lead to a client referral. You just have to get out there and snatch that canapé off the platter before it passes.

Enough about me

There truly is a whole book to be written about the new business etiquette. Emily Post and Miss Manners, among others, provided a great beginning, but it’s a less literate and much ruder new world that calls for a new communication style. In simpler times—before 1970—there were very specific social rules about what subjects were appropriate for conversation in specific circumstances. Many topics were taboo for what quaintly was called “mixed company,” but that has been changed forever.

Today, everyone is a bit unclear about what still is appropriate and where the boundaries of tasteful conversation lie. The safest approach is to say as little as possible about yourself without seeming sphinxlike. To keep it simple, here’s the cardinal rule: If you’ve been hearing the lovely music of your own voice for more than three minutes, you are talking far too much.