By Sandy Hershelman
Schmoozing has gotten a bad rap. Some nasty salesmen,
politicians and con men—and politician con men—have turned
an impressive social skill into a four-letter word: LIAR. They'll
say anything to get what they want.
I'm here to stand up for all of us schmoozers, who don't
belong to the Liars' Clan.
I schmooze to make you feel special. There's nothing phony
about my interest in you. I truly care about what you're doing,
how your kids are, and that your cat had kittens. And, when I ask, "May
I help you?" I mean it. You really do matter to me. I want
to see you succeed. I want you to smile.
Does this help me in my own aspirations? Absolutely. But that's
not my purpose in life. I schmooze people I'll never see again.
I'll compliment a stranger's shoes, call the hotel maid
by name, and tip the waiter at 20%—and not just because the
math is easier.
At its core, schmoozing is all about personalizing relationships
that might otherwise remain distant. Even though I may never see
that person again, I put a smile on his face. Locally, a lot of wait
staff know me by name, and they even know what I normally order.
Pay attention to others and they'll pay attention to you.
Networking, marketing, public relations, sales. . .each has schmoozing
at its base. It's one-on-one relationship building. Schmoozers
are givers, not takers. Do you think I bring sunscreen to the
golf tournament I host to "get something" from the players?
No, I care—and I don't want them to fry in the sun.
My financial advisor sent me the book she was reading. It made her
think of me. Was she schmoozing? Of course she was—and in the
best way possible. She truly cares. I have no doubt about it.
All of that personalized foo-foo that you give away (and call advertising)
is a form of schmoozing. And do you really think giving out dog biscuits
at the bank is going to make Fluffy's owner open an account?
Probably not, but it sure makes the teller and the non-customer feel
good. That's the power of schmoozing. It's a warm fuzzy
feeling inside for both the giver and the receiver.
Watching my friend Barb schmooze the vendors on the beaches of Mexico
was a wonder to behold. Her genuine interest in their handiwork and
families broke the language barrier. She truly cared and they knew
it. I have a hunch they probably would have given her the stuff she
bought, paying them well.
Granted, schmoozers are typically extroverts who love to talk. These
masters of small talk are usually charming and enthusiastic. Not
all people are born schmoozers, but if your employees realize that
excellent customer service is their top priority, they're halfway
up the schmoozers' ladder.
Schmoozing someone you can't stand really deserves to be called
something else. (B.S. comes to mind.) Even so, those finely tuned
skills have gotten me through sessions with Ms. Nasty with only minor
Never underestimate the power of a 2,000-megawatt smile. It can cause
even the biggest grouch to smile back.
Find a schmoozing style that suits your personality. For me, it's
the super-friendly question asker. It's a style that's
always served me well, especially in my years as a journalist.
Schmoozing allows me to shift my optimism into overdrive. I truly
believe that schmoozers enjoy their lives more.
Yes, I am a schmoozer—and proud of it! I'm not schmoozing
to close deals; I'm building relationships. I really do love
people. I care about their well-being. For me, schmoozing is not
a means to an end. It's a way of life. It's just who