Shameless Schmoozing

Mention schmoozing to most folks and negative—and inaccurate-- images come to mind.  Loud, aggressive people pushing business cards into your hands—and everyone else’s.  Boasting, self-serving business owners promoting themselves and their products to potential clients without qualifying a need or interest.  Yes, the world of business is run on contacts, sales, and marketing, but schmoozing is far from negative and phony.  It is a kinder, gentler approach to career and business advancement.  It’s building and sustaining relationships.

Schmoozing has many definitions.  Coming from Yiddish, it means to chat.  Others define it as the art of conversation.  Some think schmoozing is well-developed social skills.  Schmoozing is small talk.

Schmoozing is often compared to networking.  The two “skills” may lead to similar results, but the process is very different.  Networking is calculated.  Schmoozing is a bit riskier; you may have to take a chance.

Networking has a goal.  You go to a specific location to meet a specific person.  You have something to sell and you’re hoping to find a buyer.  Your actions are directed and focused.  You distribute business cards, brochures, SWAG to promote and give visibility to you and your business. You are looking for something or someone who can help you.  And, you may or may not like or care for the people you meet.  It’s strictly business.

Schmoozing is different.  It tends to be social and playful and heartfelt.  Talking to anybody and everybody, any time, any place, schmoozers don’t need a business card to make an introduction.  They use a smile and their listening skills to connect.  Schmoozers genuinely like people, enjoy hearing about their lives, and really don’t care if “business” is conducted.  But committed schmoozers will tell you that some of their most profitable and enduring relationships were the result of schmoozing.  Authentic schmoozers tend to be good businesspeople; they are “real” with customers, clients, employees, vendors, and associates.  Good businesspeople are not always good schmoozers.  They’re just good at business.  Schmoozers care about people first-- knowing instinctively that sales, connections, and desired business results will follow.

Because schmoozing is more art than science, there aren’t a lot of rules or must dos. A free form approach is the preferred method to this craft.  Schmoozers, however, generally agree that they are:

Positive and Optimistic. Whining, complaining, griping or gossiping are schmoozing no-nos.  A complaint to a potential schmoozee about the slow service at the coffee shop, the lousy weekend weather, the terrible economy, or horror commutes is a first-class turnoff.  It’s about approaching life as a great, wonderful adventure-- something to be experienced, not something to be endured.  They know that schmoozing could lead nowhere, but it could also lead to a life-altering, life-expanding experience.  They stay open to possibilities and they focus on having fun.  When schmoozers recount their schmoozing successes, they pepper their tales with talk of magic, kismet, and serendipity. And, if they lose a schmooze-- no problem.  They don’t give up. 

Great Listeners.  Schmoozers put the focus on others, not themselves.  Schmoozers geniunely like people and learning about them.  All people.  Schmoozers don’t worry or care about what you can do for them; they enjoy knowing people from all walks of life.  In fact, they will tell you that their lives are richer and deeper for knowing a diversity of people.  Schmoozers rarely ask “What do you do for work?”  They want to know who you are, what you like to do, what you both might have in common and what the differences might be.  Beyond listening, they really hear what the other person is saying.  Each schmooze is a potential opportunity to expand their knowledge of worlds rather than their own.  It could come in handy--maybe not tomorrow or next week, but schmoozers are patient people who know that what they learned or who they met may help them weeks or months later.   

Genuine and Caring.  There are, unfortunately, pesky people who say they are schmoozing, but really they are insincere flatterers, status seekers, or pick up artists.  Schmoozers approach you with a smile and a hello, not a tasteless or senseless quip.  .  They want others to feel comfortable and at ease.  They remember your name.  They acknowledge promotions, anniversaries, special events with a card or phone call.  They are happy for others’ successes and sad and concerned when life is bumpy or unhappy for clients and acquaintances.  Schmoozers are known for wanting to help—with nothing in return.  Accomplished schmoozers talk about what they gained from helping another person.

No doubt, schmoozing requires some risk taking.  Putting yourself out there without the shield of business cards and brochures and canned presentation can be frightening.  But, if you approach schmoozing in its true spirit of fun, you’ll attract other people having fun and doing life in most interesting ways.  And, who knows, your next schmooze might change your life.

Written by Stephany Bruell