At a networking event recently, I bumped into Elizabeth, an old colleague from a previous job. As it was a busy event, we both agreed that we should sit down for a coffee to have a proper catch up, so we arranged to meet the following week.
With the chance to talk properly, it turned out that through our various contacts, we were both in a position to help each other. I was really excited – her current role was on a project with a client that I’d been interested to get an introduction to, and amongst other things, I’d done a speaking session for a franchise business that her firm really wanted to pitch for.
As the meeting progressed, I took copious notes on who she needed to talk to, how I could set up the meeting, what I needed to say to get over the initial barrier that often comes up of “oh, we’ve already got someone who deals with that for us…” – basically all the information I needed to help her.
At the same time though – Elizabeth was sat there, not writing a single thing down – she had no notepad, no laptop, no phone – just her now empty cup of coffee. Worse than that, she didn’t even look interested in the conversation – she seemed to be far more entertained by her spoon, that she was tapping gently on the side of the cup: by the end of the meeting, it was all I could do to stop myself grabbing the spoon!
On the train back to the office, I received an email from Elizabeth, confirming that she had spoken to each of the 3 people that I’d been keen to be introduced to, she’d told them a little bit about why I thought they would be interested to talk to me, and confirmed that they’d all been very happy to take my call.
What had happened? I thought she’d been disinterested – whereas in reality she’d taken in every single bit of detail she’d needed to make the introductions.
Elizabeth is an auditory learner – she takes in information by discussion, and listening. I, as a predominantly visual learner, really struggle to retain information unless I write it down.
If Elizabeth HAD written everything down, the chances were she wouldn’t have retained the information, because the very act of writing would have hurt her concentration levels. Her way of concentrating was to play with the coffee spoon – the very thing that visually almost drove me to distraction!
Appreciating how businesspeople learn may just be crucial in understanding how to best refer each other. Have you ever seen your networking contacts behaving in a way that feels alien to you?