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  • Awkward Networker

10 Social Skills We Learned From Our Fathers

Our fathers have significant influence on our social skills.  Every time my spoken vocabulary gets trite and lazy, I hear my dad’s voice in my head saying, “Words have specific meanings, Sean.  Use them appropriately.”

Every door I’ve held, every “please” and “thank you”, every big smile and “Good morning!  How are you?” before ordering my morning coffee… that’s dad.

Dad taught me everything from negotiations, first impressions, making friends, and otherwise developing social intelligence.  But as special as he is (I mean, c’mon… how cool does he look swigging Blue Label from the bottle?), he is just doing what all fathers do for their children – teach social skills.

So, I enlisted 10 good friends and all-star networkers and asked them:

What’s one piece of social advice your father taught you?

The results were incredible.  Enjoy!

Chief of Staff, Einstein Healthcare Network

“Listen actively – first seek to understand the person and hear not just what they are saying but the meaning behind why they’re saying it and how they are expressing it.”

Business Development Manager, Friedman LLP

“When you say ‘hi’ to someone, make them remember that ‘hi’. Leave them with a positive memory. So when someone asks how you are, instead of saying ‘fine’ or ‘can’t complain’; say ‘if I were any better there’d be two of me’, or ‘livin the dream’. Make someone’s first experience with you a positive one and they will always come back for more.”

Sr Director – Government Affairs, Comcast

“Every time I tell my dad about an interesting conversation I had, he says, ‘Did you tell them about me?’ After many event debriefs, and many eye rolls, I realized that more often than not I had mentioned him. And my family. And something we had done or shared together that had made an impact on my life. My Dad can strike up a conversation with anyone, and trained me my whole life (even when I didn’t realize it) that being your authentic genuine self, willing to share your experiences and perspective with others, was the best way to make memorable impressions and lasting friendships.”

Managing Director, KPMG LLP

“In any networking setting, wherever you go, always respect your elders and be polite to them. Let them do most of the talking and you listen. Even if you think they are wrong be polite, smile and acknowledge, but don’t confront them. As elders, they deserve the respect.”

Vice President – Administration, Perryman Building & Construction

“Very simple: Look people in the eye, give a firm handshake, and always be yourself.”

Chief Media Hacker, Chamber.Media

“He taught me the hardest objection to overcome is when someone says ‘yes.’  When they say yes, stop talking immediately and get the contract signed. He also taught me that silence when negotiating is always viewed as a ‘YES – YOU AGREE’ so remember to say ‘hell no’ when you do not agree.”

Vice President – Commercial Banking, Banco Santander

“People remember emotions very well whether they want to or not. It’s important to engage emotionally and be genuine about the conversation. An engaging conversation is a fine-line between rocking the boat a little and staying genuine. One that I can walk away saying, ‘I respectfully disagree with that person but I like where they are coming from.’  That builds memorable interaction and emotion.“

Middle Market Leader, Aon

“People love to talk, so let them! As an awkward networker myself, he taught me not to stress over leading the conversation, but to ask thoughtful questions and let other people do the talking.  By asking questions and engaging in two-way conversation, you can learn a lot about an individual and what makes them tick both personally and professionally to help connect with them and develop a relationship.”

Senior Vice President, Brian Communications

“Have a little referential knowledge.  His point was that as a young person, just starting out in a career, it’s important to have knowledge (Beyond your job!) that can help build bridges with more experienced employees and even your boss. You want to get the reference, if someone makes a point or a joke that touches on a time, place or event that could be unfamiliar to someone your age.  Referential knowledge can range from major news events to pop culture to sports to music to movies – and you only need a little to make an impression. It demonstrates a willingness to learn and a self-awareness that there are experiences, perspectives and memories beyond your own.”

Founder & CEO, SHON LLC

“I’m a guy who loves to talk, which doesn’t always work in a social environment.  When I was a child, traveling with my step father, he would remind me to be a listener when getting to know someone new. He always said listening will help you earn the other person’s trust.”

I hope all the dads out there have a wonderful Father’s Day 2018, and a special Happy Father’s Day to the original Awkward Networker!  Love you, dad.

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