Despite your lack of sports fanaticism, you don’t need to avoid all the sports-related chatter in your workplace.
So you thought the Sounders were a band, you don’t know how the Mariners are doing and, truth to tell, you tuned into the Super Bowl only to catch Katy Perry’s performance during the halftime show.
Despite your lack of sports fanaticism, you don’t need to avoid all the sports-related chatter in your workplace. Even those with limited knowledge of sports can use it to build better business relationships and connections, says Jen Mueller, a Seattle-based sports broadcaster and consultant.
“Sports fans talk to other sports fans. Period,” Mueller says. “If you can participate in the conversation you have an ‘in.’ ”
And that works in your favor if you’re looking to move up in an organization, want more responsibility or want to ask for more money, says Mueller, who has written two books about using sports as a career tool and whose company, Talk Sporty to Me, conducts presentations to “teach men and women how to communicate better using sports conversations.”
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Mueller, 36, knew sports long before she began advising people about how sports talk could benefit their business relationships.
A broadcast journalism graduate of Southern Methodist University, Mueller works full-time at Root Sports as a producer and on-air talent for Mariners baseball games. During football season, she is a radio sideline reporter for the Seattle Seahawks.
Her first book, “Game Time: Learn to Talk Sports in 5 Minutes a Day for Business,” was published in 2013. Her second, “Talk Sporty to Me: Thinking Outside the Box Scores,” came out in January.
A high school athlete who also worked as a high school football official, Mueller says she became “an accidental entrepreneur” when a contact at accounting firm KPMG’s Seattle office asked her to speak to a group of female employees who wanted to break down gender barriers that existed in professional networking activities.
“They saw their male colleagues entertaining potential clients at sports events, and those males had higher profiles and were making more money at the company,” Mueller said during a recent phone interview. “The women had the same experience level and were trying to figure out what the deal was.”
About half of the women in that audience were sports-savvy “and the rest wanted to know how to get started,” she says.
Her advice: Scan the sports section of a daily newspaper or website and come away with three sentences or 15 seconds worth of knowledge that will launch and maintain a conversation.
For instance, she says, “The Mariners haven’t won as many games as fans were hoping, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a hot topic of conversation. In fact, their lack of wins can spark a lot of conversation among disappointed fans.
“Here’s a three sentence conversation relating to the Mariners that can initiate a conversation: ‘The Mariners added a big bat in Nelson Cruz. Felix Hernandez is still pitching lights out. Why aren’t they winning more games?’ ”
If the same fan asks you in turn if you watched the game last night, don’t lie about it, says Mueller. “Say no and ask if they watched it, or say no and ask what the biggest highlight was.”
Another tip she’s passed on to clients such as Coca-Cola and T-Mobile: Once you get into a sports conversation, have a way to get out. For example, say you jump into a conversation about the Seahawks draft, and suddenly you’re being asked about the impact of third-round draft pick Tyler Lockett in the return game.
Instead of freezing or getting the deer in the headlights look, say something like, “You would know more than I would. I didn’t follow the draft very closely because I was working all weekend. I read the headlines about the Hawks draft picks, but didn’t see anything else,” Mueller says.
The bottom line on small talk in business settings, says Mueller, is that, “If you can communicate better with the people around you, everything gets easier and people are more productive if they like the people they work with and feel they have opportunities to advance their career.”
The Seattle Times Jobs staff contributed to this report.