Schmooze Without the Ooze

Merriam Webster defines “schmooze” as a verb meaning “to talk with someone in a friendly way often in order to get some advantage for yourself”. Sounds unctuous, doesn’t it? I was recently interviewed about modern methods of getting to know clients and colleagues in a more sincere way than a lot of people associate with schmoozing.

The article was published in the August 15, 2014 issue of The Lawyers Weekly. A word of correction, though; I would never recommend that a lawyer take a client to a hot yoga class. A relaxation yoga class – if appropriate to the client’s needs – would be great. But a hot yoga class? That could be really awkward!

As for my comments about drinking excessively at networking events, I haven’t seen “a lot” of young lawyers go overboard, but I’ve definitely seen it happen more than once. I’d still recommend that lawyers save the partying for their friends and keep things professional while schmoozing on behalf of the firm.

If you think my advice too cautious, think again. In 2012, researchers at the University of Michigan and the Wharton School of Business published the “Imbibing Idiot Study“. As it turns out, even being seen with a drink in your hand in a professional event makes you appear less intelligent than you might be. Why? Alcohol consumption is closely linked to perceptions of cognitive impairment. It also limits the persuasiveness of your arguments if you’re drinking during a meeting with potential new clients. The bias remains even if you are in a setting that is supposed to be a reflection of your intelligence and good taste, such as a posh office, fancy event or upscale restaurant.

If you’re at a business dinner where the host is the first to order wine,  try limiting your consumption to one or two drinks at most, if you drink at all. You’ll need to weigh the factors that the people at the event will evaluate you on: social intelligence, intellect, professional judgment or all three.