It’s a word I learned as a kid: schmoozing. Usually neutral in implication and occasionally pejorative, I heard people referred to as “schmoozers” and never thought much about it. As an adult, schmoozing is something I learned to use to my advantage — when possible.
Yiddish in origin and now part of American vernacular, schmoozing’s original meaning suggested pleasant chit chat of an intimate or gossipy nature. And perhaps a more contemporary interpretation is the secondary definition, which leans toward networking, flattery, and even manipulation.
Now, for all you out there who may know me IRL — In Real Life — you know that I, like all of us, have many facets to my personality. And…
Being confident and outgoing when the situation calls for it doesn’t negate the reality that I’m frequently quiet, tend to be introverted, and easily become reclusive — so much so that one good friend says I “live in a cave” (albeit a very nicely appointed one). As evidence, he uses the fact that often, several days may pass without my speaking.
This is part of my “normal.”
Nonetheless, I am very capable of flipping the “chatty extrovert” switch, I enjoy my forays into the world, and then, invariably, I am hungry for loads of quiet time after. And yes, a half glass of Pinot Noir helps flip that switch to gregariousness, particularly in social situations.
Certainly, the desire for alone time is reinforced by being a writer. Then again, maybe I’m happy being a writer because I so enjoy that alone time!
By the way, let’s remember that being alone is not the same as loneliness, and neither are the same as isolation. Being alone may worsen isolation, and isolation may breed loneliness, but some choose isolation, while others of us definitely do not.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for pleasant alone time, too long prolonged, to lead to one feeling both lonely and isolated!
Now, back to the schmooze subject where I began.
to converse informally: chat; to chat in a friendly and persuasive manner especially so as to gain favor, business, or connections
Once upon a time, my conversational capacity was always at the ready, and in two lanuages. These last years, I have spent an extraordinary amount of time alone. I’ve enjoyed (and needed) much of it — cave or no cave. But… It’s not difficult to erode one’s speaking skills — the rhythms of give-and-take, good open-ended questions to spur dialog, reading the other’s body language and adjusting accordingly, as well as choosing words to put others at ease.
This is what I think of as schmoozing, which can be vitally important in many fields, and certainly if you’re in the business of communicating, much less prospecting for new gigs.
In the past two weeks, for several reasons (stay tuned…), I’ve been polishing up my schmoozing skills — of the warm, make-someone-comfortable, chit chat type, and the networking type, and, I hope, of the eventual friend-making type.
This last, in my opinion, is one of the potentially lovely aspects of schmoozing — yes, you want something — but what you’re attempting, through interest, mirroring gestures, reading the other person — is the possibility of an agreeable human connection that might lead to any number of mutually delightful outcomes.
Happily, my schmoozing skills are returning, and for me, a Big Cuppa Joe after a decent night’s sleep is a superior assist to a glass of wine, as I remind myself that any sort of skill must be “practiced.”
While I am a firm believer in “listen first, talk second,” there are times when we are rightly initiating and directing the conversation, so we’re talking first. Nevertheless, those listening skills are crucial, and I’m trying to give those a workout as well.
And meanwhile, I think the term “schmoozing” is getting a bad rap!
You May Also Enjoy