When you meet someone, after, "What do you do?" you're out of things to say. You suck at small talk, and those first five minutes are tough because you're a little shy and a little insecure.
But you want to make a good impression. You want people to genuinely like you.
Here's how remarkably likeable people do it:
They lose the power pose.
I know: Your parents taught you to stand tall, square your shoulders, stride purposefully forward, drop your voice a couple of registers, and shake hands with a firm grip.
It's great to display nonverbal self-confidence, but go too far and it seems like you're trying to establish your importance. That makes the "meeting" seem like it's more about you than it is the other person--and no one likes that.
No matter how big a deal you are you pale in comparison to say, oh, Nelson Mandela. So take a cue from him. Watch how he greets Bill Clinton, no slouch at this either.
Clinton takes a step forward (avoiding the "you must come to me" power move); Mandela steps forward with a smile and bends slightly forward as if, ever so slightly, to bow (a clear sign of deference and respect in nearly every culture); Clinton does the same. What you have are two important people who put aside all sense of self-importance or status. They're genuine.
Next time you meet someone, relax, step forward, tilt your head towards them slightly, smile, and show that you're the one who is honored by the introduction--not them.
We all like people who like us. If I show you I'm genuinely happy to meet you, you'll instantly start to like me. (And you'll show that you do, which will help calm my nerves and let me be myself.)
They embrace the power of touch.
Nonsexual touch can be very powerful. (Yes, I'm aware that sexual touch can be powerful too.) Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly.
Go easy, of course: Pat the other person lightly on the upper arm or shoulder. Make it casual and nonthreatening.
Check out Clinton's right-hand-shakes-hands-left-hand-touches-Mandela's-forearm-a-second-later handshake in the link above and tell me, combined with his posture and smile, that it doesn't come across as genuine and sincere.
Think the same won't work for you? Try this: The next time you walk up behind a person you know, touch them lightly on the shoulder as you go by. I guarantee you'll feel like a more genuine greeting was exchanged.
Touch breaks down natural barriers and decreases the real and perceived distance between you and the other person--a key component in liking and in being liked.
They whip out their social jiu-jitsu.
You meet someone. You talk for 15 minutes. You walk away thinking, "Wow, we just had a great conversation. She is awesome."
Then, when you think about it later, you realize you didn't learn a thing about the other person.
Remarkably likeable people are masters at Social Jiu-Jitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened. SJJ masters are fascinated by every step you took in creating a particularly clever pivot table, by every decision you made when you transformed a 200-slide PowerPoint into a TED Talk-worthy presentation, if you do say so yourself...
SJJ masters use their interest, their politeness, and their social graces to cast an immediate spell on you.
And you like them for it.
Social jiu-jitsu is easy. Just ask the right questions. Stay open-ended and allow room for description and introspection. Ask how, or why, or who.
As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how they did it. Or why they did it. Or what they liked about it, or what they learned from it, or what you should do if you're in a similar situation.
No one gets too much recognition. Asking the right questions implicitly shows you respect another person's opinion--and, by extension, the person.
We all like people who respect us, if only because it shows they display great judgment.
(Kidding. Sort of.)
They whip out something genuine.
Everyone is better than you at something. (Yes, that's true even for you.) Let them be better than you.
Too many people when they first meet engage in some form of penis-measuring contest. Crude reference but one that instantly calls to mind a time you saw two alpha male master-of-the business-universe types whip out their figurative rulers. (Not literally, of course. I hope you haven't seen that.)
Don't try to win the "getting to know someone" competition. Try to lose. Be complimentary. Be impressed. Admit a failing or a weakness.
You don't have to disclose your darkest secrets. If the other person says, "We just purchased a larger facility," say, "That's awesome. I have to admit I'm jealous. We've wanted to move for a couple years but haven't been able to put together the financing. How did you pull it off?"
Don't be afraid to show a little vulnerability. People may be (momentarily) impressed by the artificial, but people sincerely like the genuine.
Be the real you. People will like the real you.
They ask for nothing.
You know the moment: You're having a great conversation, you're finding things in common... and then bam! Someone plays the networking card.
And everything about your interaction changes.
Put away the hard-charging, goal-oriented, always-on kinda persona. If you have to ask for something, find a way to help the other person, then ask if you can.
Remarkably likeable people focus on what they can do for you--not for themselves.
They "close" genuinely.
"Nice to meet you," you say, nodding once as you part. That's the standard move, one that is instantly forgettable.
Instead go back to the beginning. Shake hands again. Use your free hand to gently touch the other person's forearm or shoulder. Say, "I am really glad I met you." Or say, "You know, I really enjoyed talking with you." Smile: Not that insincere salesperson smile that goes with, "Have a nice day!" but a genuine, appreciative smile.
Making a great first impression is important, but so is making a great last impression.
And they accept it isn't easy.
All this sounds simple, right? It is. But it's not easy, especially if you're shy. The standard, power pose, "Hello, how are you, good to meet you, good seeing you," shuffle feels a lot safer.
But it won't make people like you.
So accept it's hard. Accept that being a little more deferential, a little more genuine, a little more complimentary and a little more vulnerable means putting yourself out there. Accept that at first it will feel risky.
But don't worry: When you help people feel a little better about themselves--which is reason enough--they'll like you for it.
And you'll like yourself a little more, too.
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Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden
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