Imagine how much easier your networking would be if you could merely look at someone and know who they are? Not who as in their name, but who as in what that person is like. It seems the stuff of detective stories and fairy tales, but if you try, you can learn to master reading people.
Reading people is really just a matter of picking up on their patterns, which requires, above all, being observant. So what should you be observing? Here are some things to observe to use that you can add to your networking game:
1) What is he/she claiming?
One of the best ways to read someone is by seeing what statements they are making in the way they dress. If someone is wearing a class ring, that tells you he or she is very proud of his or her school. It’s possible that same person has an affinity for sports as many university cultures revolve around sports. If someone shows up with a Prada bag, you know that she may be eager to show status. Tattoos, whether visible or cleverly hidden may say something about whether they are comfortable in their choices or somewhat sheepish about past indiscretions. Simple superficial observations can help you deduce something about the person across from you.
2) What does he/she leave behind?
Okay, this might be odd, but bear with me. How does a person leave their surroundings? As an example. What is your impression when you walk into someone’s house (sans kinds, let’s not get into slamming parents) and there are clothes thrown about and trash laying around? It might tell you that person is not exactly the best at self care. Maybe he or she might have a lower level of responsibility, or maybe they are overextended. We, of course, while networking can’t walk into anyone’s house, but we can observe small things, such as what someone does with a piece of trash they want to get rid of or how they want to get rid of an empty glass. Is the person observant of where to put trash, indicating courtesy, or are they oblivious and perhaps lacking self awareness?
3) How does he/she treat the help?
I know, “the help” sounds condescending, but whether a bartender, server or greeter, usually at every event you go to someone is helping (volunteer or pay). Observing how someone treats those who are there to serve gives you a good indicator of whether someone feels entitled, or maybe more warm and approachable.
None of these observations, of course, will make or break an interaction, but one of the key takeaways should be that you can make educated deductions about people in merely the first meeting. It can help you to identify who you want to approach and who you might be the most comfortable around. Good luck out there!