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Dec 04

The Art of Making Friends by Carole Stone, Founder TheStoneClub

I was desperately shy when I was starting out in the world but I’ve grown to love networking, and I now know how important it is in both your professional and social life. I think the secret of success in both cases is taking a real interest in other people, listening to what they say about themselves and what they do, and not just talking about yourself. I call it ‘good networking’, making the most of the people you meet to your mutual advantage.

We all feel a bit apprehensive when we walk into a room full of people we don’t know. This is equally true of a business conference or a social gathering. My advice is to make up your mind beforehand that you are going to ‘seize the moment’ and not leave before you have met at least one or two new people.

When you meet someone interesting you feel you want to see again make sure you get their contact details. Never leave it so that someone you want to see again takes your card and says they will contact you. You should be the one to come back with an email or call to make sure they remember you.

What if you approach someone who responds by snubbing you? Don’t worry: it happens to all of us at one time or another, and it’s only your pride that will take a temporary knock. You’ll soon get over it – and it is much better than missing the chance to talk to someone you really want to meet.

If you are at a professional gathering, try to find out who the other guests are and, if there are any speakers you want to meet afterwards, listen to them so that you have something sensible to say about the subject. If there is a chance to put questions to a speaker from the floor take the opportunity. State your name and the company, charity or organisation you are involved with and make your point briefly and clearly.

If it’s a gathering of friends for drinks or a party, and you are feeling really lost, just go up to someone like yourself who looks a bit lonely, and ask how they know the host, or whether they’ve been to the house before. Say you’re on your own and don’t know many of the guests there. Most people will be only too pleased to respond.

It is always a bonus to have somewhere to invite new people you meet and want to see again. A way of building a circle of friends that I have found very helpful indeed is what I call my ‘salon’. For a few weeks, set aside one day of the week – it must the same day and time each week and say that for one and a half hours (no longer) you will be in a certain place, a room in your office, your home, a corner of a coffee shop, and that you will be happy for your new contact to join you there – and perhaps bring a friend too. You’ll be amazed how many new and interesting people you will meet – and it needn’t be expensive. I ran my ‘salon’ at my office for many years and made dozens of new contacts.

Last year I established TheStoneClub, where members come together to meet each other – often together with experts in their field – to discuss business and social issues of the day. If you’re interested to know more about the Club do contact us.

Finally, before you go to bed, make a note of the people you’ve met during the day, with their contact details, in your electronic database. That’s the way to build a network that will make you the envy of all.

To find out more about Carole and join her network, go to her website.