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100% Guaranteed Icebreaker

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February 1, 2011

in Career

Recently I’ve been speaking more and more about “networking,” and I’ve found that it’s one of those topics that people honestly don’t think they can learn how to do. They figure that there are two types of people in this world, those who are awesome networkers, and everyone else in the sea of humanity.  So they resign themselves to awkwardly standing by the buffet, sipping their chardonnay, wishing they were undergoing a root canal while they watch others “work the room.”  And it simply isn’t true.

The best ice breaker known to humanity: the compliment.  It’s just that simple. Want to meet someone from the hot guy (or girl) at a party to a celebrity to a potential hiring manager?  No one is immune to flattery. And here’s a tip: you don’t even have to personally like what you’re complimenting the other person for.  Here’s how this works.

Across a sea of crudités I recognize a business contact I’ve really wanted to meet for months.  As I walk over to her side of the room, I notice that she’s wearing a paisley-patterned scarf.  Now I’m not a fan of all paisley that I meet, and this is definitely not the kind that I’ll be buying anytime soon, but it is a noticeable feature of her outfit.  So although I personally wouldn’t wear it, I still compliment her on it: “That scarf looks great with that outfit!”

Her reaction: HUGE smile, then she proceeds to tell me that the scarf was a gift from her daughter who just came back from a trip to…. You get the picture. And suddenly, we’re friends.  The genius behind the plan—EVERYONE loves to be complimented.  I’ve never received a compliment from someone then turned around and was rude to them. Works like a charm.

Want to make it easier for people to talk to you?  Wear a conversation starter!  For men: something like a lapel pin, interesting tie, large watch or class ring will do the trick.  For women: a large pin, scarf, or even a bright blazer will do it.

Great opening lines for either gender: “That (fill in the blank) is so unique. Is there a story behind it?” “That (piece of jewelry) looks like an antique, are you a collector?” “I’ve never seen anything like that (fill in the blank) before, where did you get it?” Just simple, quick comments. They’re not meant to start a deeper conversation about the item being mentioned, just put the person being complimented in a favorable state of mind to continue a conversation with someone who, they’ve now discovered, has exquisite taste.

You can even have some fun with your nametag.  Everyone puts their name, but why not call yourself a Diva, Superstar or tag your name with “The Incredible”?  WOW, talk about giving someone something to ask you about!   The truth is that when most people walk up to you, they’re looking for something to say.  With a little planning you can give ’em a hand, and compliment them right back!

Melanie Szlucha’s company Red Inc. Helps candidates stand out from the crowd–in a good way. Follow her on Twitter or check out her website.

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