- Michael Thompson
As a kid, I was told time and time again that the fastest way to make a dent in the world was by leaving each person better than you found them.
This sounded great to me on paper. There were just two problems: First, I had a severe speech impediment. Second, the idea of meeting new people terrified me. This meant you had someone who not only was afraid to meet new people but also wasn’t very good at it.
After I graduated from college, I realized if I was ever going to make something of my life this would have to change. As a result, I did something that seemed foolish: I took a sales job.
For the first few months I was nervous, and it showed. There were times when I stuttered so badly when introducing myself to a potential client that I hung up on them mid-sentence. But by sticking with it, over time my confidence grew. A year later, I was one of the leading salespeople in the office. Soon after, I was managing a team and training all new hires on how to develop relationships with new clients.
During this time I learned a valuable lesson: you don’t have to be super charismatic to build meaningful connections with people — you just have to make a commitment to do the little things right.
The good news is that for all my fellow introverts out there the six little things below involve very little talking.
1. Bring your notebook to conversations, not your phone
The greatest compliment you can give to another person is to truly listen to them and demonstrate that you like the way they think. The words, “I love that, give me a second to write it down,” can never damage someone’s impression of you.
The next time you meet with someone keep your phone out of sight and instead takes notes about what you are learning and the things that are important to them. Dale Carnegie got it right — “If you want to be interesting, be interested.
2. Become a master at remembering people’s names
We all know remembering names is important, yet most people admit to being terrible at it. Here’s a little trick: simply ask people to repeat their names at the end of the conversation — “I really enjoyed talking with you. I’m bad with names but I don’t want to forget yours. Would you mind telling me your name again?”
Human beings can be difficult. But very few of them will give you a hard time after saying a variation of the words above. You can even turn it into a bet by telling them drinks are on you the next time you run into each other and you’ve forgotten their name.
Quick aside: I like it when people I barely know ask me about my kids. However, I love it when they say to me “How are Liam and Luc doing?” Be the person who works hard to remember the names of the partners, kids, and even pets of the people you meet and you’ll never have to worry about being likable again.
3. Focus on leaving a memorable last impression
Most people worry so much about how they are going to start a conversation they forget how memorable a strong ending can be. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to end the conversation by offering to connect the person you are speaking with to someone in your network who you think they may get along with.
You don’t have to overdo it, a simple, “After getting to know you, I know that you and my friend Jordan would really hit it off,” will do. By doing this not only will the person you are speaking with like you more, but so will the person you are connecting them with. After all, most people like it when you speak highly of them to other people.
4. Show interest in small talk
As an introvert, I used to wear my “I hate small-talk” badge with honor. I wanted deep and meaningful conversations. But here’s the thing: most people won’t open up to you about the big things in their lives if you don’t express interest in their little day-to-day happenings.
Ask people about their kids. Ask them how their job is going. Keep up-to-date with your local sports teams. Hell, even stop to talk to the woman at your corner deli about the weather. These conversations may be boring, but they matter. And when done consistently they open the door for real-talk to eventually take place.
5. Master a few conversation starters
Really Mike? Conversation starters? Yeah, I know, as a fellow introvert I’m not a huge fan of them either. But the good news is that you only have to get comfortable with a few of them in order to recycle them around with the new people you meet.
As a writer and career coach my personal favorite is simply asking the people around me for advice: “I’m writing an article about career advice. What’s your best tip?” or “I’m curious, do you think following your passion is good advice or terrible?” These questions will get people talking about their experiences, careers, and interests and it’s hard not to like someone who does that.
6. Recognize when it’s best to keep your mouth shut
Maya Angelou left us with a million and one nuggets of wisdom during her lifetime. When it comes to building relationships none more important than “People may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
Sometimes the best way to accomplish this is by simply keeping your mouth shut and focusing solely on being there for people around you. Lean in when you sense something means a great deal to the person you are speaking with. Give a subtle touch when warranted to let them know you are physically there for them. Being likable isn’t only about what we say, it’s also about showing people that we care about what they are saying.
The beauty of the tips above is that in addition to having to say very little, you can begin to put each of them into practice today.
Make it a point to better remember people’s names. Keep your phone out of sight. Show some energy when you are engaged in small-talk. Master a few ice-breakers in order to learn more about the people around you.
Author and entrepreneur Julian Smith got it dead right — “There will always be someone smarter than you. There will always be someone stronger than you. That means that your only job is to be the best at connecting with others.”