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Jacky Sherman

The Consultant's Consultant

07970 638857


Networking Skills: The Long Goodbye

How long does it take you?


Posted by Jacky Sherman on 15/11/2023 @ 8:00AM

Kate Fox's excellent book, 'Watching the English', talks about our need to have a long goodbye. As an anthropologist studying the rules underpinning our culture and sense of national identity, she asserts that saying goodbye is one way we maintain our relationships ...

Don't rush off after a networking event. The English like a long goodbye!

Don't rush off after a networking event. The English like a long goodbye!

copyright: stockbroker / 123rf stock photo

It's a kind of reassurance and that we, the English, feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied if the other party have been a bit hasty in their farewells.

As she puts it "Everyone must make a great show of being reluctant to part". She reckons it takes as long as 20 minutes. From, "Well, we must be going" to everyone moving towards the front door, followed by someone remarking that "we must do it again soon" and others agreeing and starting to arrange how they will get in touch.

At the door the goodbyes are repeated, then the host watches the guests get into their car and stands at the door waving them off the premises, which in itself always makes reversing the car out of the drive difficult while trying to wave goodbye once again at the same time.

Your host frequently shivers at the door and stays waving until you drive out of sight. They then close the door with a "Phew, they've gone, we can relax now."

"It's easy to see how all that can
take twenty minutes!"

She re-calls a conversation with an American visitor about the fact that we often refer to this ritual as not just 'saying goodbye', but as 'saying our goodbyes'. Her guest said "You know the first time I heard that expression, I didn't really register the plural, or I guess I thought it meant you said one each or something. Now I know it means a lot of goodbyes."

In business, are we equally reluctant to take our leave? I haven't come across any reputable research on how to manage the actual timing of goodbye in a business meeting (if you have then do send me the reference).

Personal experience would suggest that how long it takes from the first move to close the meeting to actually leaving each other's company can be equally protracted where a healthy relationship either exists or is desired. I personally feel uncomfortable if the end of the meeting is too abrupt.

Now networking meetings are somewhat different as they span that space between social time and a business engagement. The purpose of attending is quite clearly to develop collaborative relationships so attention to the social rules and rituals are important. I recommend that when you're networking with the English, you plan for about 15 to 20 minutes leaving time.

How you spend that 15 to 20 minutes can make all the difference to your ultimate success in the group, as well as the impact you have had on your relationships with particular individuals.

I'm sure you agree that it would be ridiculous to attempt to say a long goodbye to everyone in the room. So focus on the particular people you have either talked to already or would like to see again.

A final touch with those you talked to at the beginning of the meeting over coffee before the formalities. Just check in what you said you would do for them and get a response of what they said they would do for you. If you plan to call or meet up, a quick reminder such as "See you on Thursday" will suffice.

If there are newcomers to the group, maybe find out if they enjoyed the meeting and add your encouragement for them to come back. I can still remember key people who did this with me and made it so much easier for me to pitch up again. Guess who I approached first at the next meeting? A new relationship is off the ground.

It's an opportunity to demonstrate that you were listening to others' contributions to the meeting. Make a quick comment on something that sparked your interest or that you would like to follow up on. Maybe you can help someone with an introduction or some information relating to what they asked for in the meeting?

Then there are the people you didn't get the chance to talk to earlier and at least agree to talk later. Exchange cards and arrange to email, call, or meet up at the next meeting.

It can be so frustrating to look around the room and realise that they have already left. The moment is gone and unless you are tenacious, it may never return.

Lastly, allow others to approach you too. You may have sparked a thought with them that they wish to follow up on. Again, the moment will pass and get forgotten as their day swallows them up.

"Kate Fox talks about us, the English, as being uneasy and awkward at these times!"

It doesn't do to be too slick in any part of building a relationship and that applies to our parting too. When we feel uneasy or awkward we tend to avoid those things, so the urge is to rush out the door as quickly as possible.

However, the real reason for this final conversation is purely a ritual designed to strengthen our bond and make us (and others) feel part of the group.

So gird your loins! Remember participation rather than content is the name of the game; it's good manners and will reap you benefits if you join in with the long goodbye.

Until next time ...



Would you like to know more?

If anything I've written in this blog post resonates with you and you'd like to discover more about the long goodbye, it may be a great idea to give me a call on 07970 638857. Let's have an initial chat over a coffee and see how I can help you.

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