I've written before about how your relationships at work are everything.
If your bosses like you, you get better assignments, more favorable reviews, honestly you even get paid more and promoted over co-workers that probably deserve it more than you do (on work merit alone at least).
Such is life. Favoritism is not a new thing. And it is very, very common on Wall Street.
So a lot of junior level employees reaaaaaally want to make deep connections with their higher-ups.
And they screw it up big time.
You're a partner at a firm. You have co-workers you've known for years that are legitimate friends of yours. You have calls and meetings that could make you seven figures in one day if things go well. And you have a junior level employee that's constantly hounding you and trying to force you into conversations you don't want to be in.
You're going to HATE that person. And you're going to distance yourself from him/her as much as you can.
This exact mistake actually cost me a full-time offer after, and was what caused me to start studying psychology and persuasion in the first place.
(I know this because they told me so to my face. Ouch!)
So that's what we're going to avoid :-)
I can sum it up in 5 words:
Don't Be A 'Try Hard'
Vague advice right? So let's dive into exactly what that means.
The first thing you want to avoid that makes you a 'try hard' is forcing conversation.
This is the one I was most guilty of as an intern.
One example I can still remember vividly almost 10 years later. I was at a company event, walking by two of the partners talking about basketball.
This is a topic that I loved, a sport I played and watched religiously. It should have been easy for me to connect on it.
But instead of storing that information away - knowing I could bring it up later and it would go well - I jumped in with "Oh, are you guys talking about basketball? I love basketball!"
I was INCREDIBLY over eager...
That is the first thing I see people screw up a lot and that's the lesson I had to learn myself.
When you're talking to senior people about topics besides work, you want to talk to them like they're people - exactly like you would with a new friend.
(Minus the swear words and slang, depending on your friend group...)
It's okay if you're excited some of the time but if you are constantly being effusive like, "Oh, you love fishing? That's so cool!" "You love golf? That's amazing!" It's going to be off-putting.
Liking you and respecting you are two different things. If your behavior reminds people of this little dog, you're going to have trouble moving past being a mid-level employee...
Tons of people like golf. Wait until you learn something about them that's actually amazing before you say, "Wow that's amazing."
Does blowing smoke up someone's ass work? Yes.
Does it work if they know that you're doing it? Not nearly as well.
So hold back on that over-eager, constantly excited suck-up style of conversation. Treat your bosses like people, instead of like somebody whose attention you aren't worthy of.
Those are the three keys of it - don't force conversation, don't be over eager, don't overreact.
So what do I do?
Alright, so it's easy to tell someone what NOT to do.
The tough part is, what SHOULD you do?
And the answer is - ping for their interest.
Especially when you're talking about your own life or your own hobbies, but even if you're talking about theirs, don't go into a 10-minute monologue uninvited.
Without any hints from them that they want to talk to you right now, if you just launch into a 10-minute story about your violin concert or your MMA competition, you run the risk that they're not going to be interested.
Maybe they're busy, maybe they just don't care. Either way, they'll get bored and want to escape the conversation, and then they're going to try to avoid you in the future so they don't get trapped again!
We've all seen this in friends or in the office. When there's a person who doesn't quite know how to read interest and they trap you, all you want to do is get away as quickly as you possibly can.
How to ping for interest
The key here is to read the other person.
For example, imagine that someone says that they really like golf. Simply ask them a question about it or make a statement about it. If they give you a short one-sentence response, then don't keep plowing down that conversational thread. Just let it go for now.
If you get an excited response, or a multi-sentence story about it, then you can start to open up and engage in a back and forth dialogue about it.
If you want to ping for something that YOU have interest in, wait until you get asked the inevitable Monday morning question of "hey, how was your weekend?"
Now is your chance to toss several seeds out there and see what plants. Something like "Oh, this weekend was awesome, I did [x], [y], and [z]".
That's it, you're done. No huge stories, no 5-minute monologues. By throwing out multiple topics, you're basically making it a 'choose your own adventure' for the other person. If they're interested in any of those 3 topics, they can ask you more about it. And if they ask you more about it, then you have the green light to start to elaborate :-)
(Note: if this is someone you already have a great pre-existing relationship with, then obviously feel free to give a longer immediate answer. Once you're close with someone, you don't really have to manage individual encounters like this. This mostly applies to relationships that are in their early stages)
And if they DON'T ask any follow up questions - let it go for now. Nothing lost, no harm done. You can even bring the same topic up a week or two later and you might get a different result, depending on their mood.
Remember, these are long relationships. You don't have to force everything to happen in one conversation.
- Don't force conversation
- Don't be overeager
- Don't overreact
- Ping for interest before diving into 10 minute stories with people you don't know well
Do this and you'll avoid being a try hard. As a bonus, these types of dynamic back and forth conversations feel much more natural, and will lead to a stronger connection than simply forcing conversation.
By the way, let me know in the comments if you guys like posts like this and I'll do more! Otherwise we'll stick to YouTube videos :-)