Awkward_ConversingThis is one of the challenging topics I’ve experienced for the past two decades in biomedical research, or just in science, in general. For a long time I thought I was an awkward conversationalist, but I found that it happened to be the environment that I was in, the sciences.  I found that environments matter when developing social skills (this is the “soft management” practice that is talked about in business).
I used to live in Los Angeles, California for a number of years.  I nurtured many Hollywood/ Business relationships. Welcome to hyper networking of High Type-A personalities. This was a great environment that enabled me to learn how to have casual conversations that weren’t specific to my subject or expertise. It forced me to be outside of my comfort zone. I appreciated it, because when I attended scientific conferences, I was able to be authentic and genuine in my conversations.
You see, conferences are pretty much huge networking events where you meet people from all walks of life, albeit in your industry. The point is that in order to develop successful working collaborations, you have to network. Science no longer works in an isolated bench bubble. So how do you network?  I can offer up some pointers that helped me and some of my fellow scientific colleagues. The way to do this is through practice of course, but here are 3 steps to get you started:
  1. Start out by asking where a person is from before asking what they do.  This creates an instant rapport that makes the person realize you’re interested in them as a person, and not just their skills. If you just ask what they do for work, it feels like you want something from them. Nobody likes that.
  2. Make a personal connection by relating to their home experiences, like sharing similar instances in your own personal life, or sharing a desire to experience what they’re fond of.  If you don’t equally share, this can breakdown the trust that you’re trying to establish. Without trust, you don’t have a relationship- personal or professional.
  3. Transition conversations by volunteering information about how your personal life led to your professional life. This gives a fluid change into a professional conversation that can lead to great networking/ working collaborations. If they don’t volunteer this information first, then you its up to you to take the first steps. This signals them to share equally.
Next time try this at networking events or even family/friendship get togethers this holiday season. The more you do this, the better you’ll start to feel about your own confidence in creating great personal collaborations. The bottom line is that the best scientific work comes from strongest mutual relationships. Its starts with “Hello!”
Check out Lisa B Marshal – Quick and Dirty Tips – Public Speaker.  She’s got great tips for more conversational and public speaking practices. She’s got a great segment especially suited for scientists.
Leave a comment. Share with me some of your experiences at a social setting or a networking event. What worked for you?