Before I get to the point of this post — tips on how to connect with anyone — I want to share a story with you.
Back when I was in university, a friend told me a mutual acquaintance had asked about me. But not in a good way.
“What’s with Keith?” she asked him. “He seems so unfriendly. Even though we went to the same high school, he doesn’t say ‘hi’ or smile when we cross paths. He must think he’s better than anyone else.”
She thought I was arrogant. In fact, I was a shy introvert who didn’t know how to connect with people.
I’m still an introvert. Connecting with new people can be exhausting for me. What’s different is that I’ve learned skills that help me connect with anyone. While my quiet introversion used to come off as arrogance, now I can sometimes fool people into thinking I’m an extrovert.
Here are two tips to help you learn how to connect with anyone.
1. Flash a genuine smile
In the book How To Talk To Anyone, author Leil Lowndes spends the first nine chapters focusing on body language, what she calls “how to look like a somebody.”
And her first and foremost body language tip is about smiling.
Smiling is also one of the six techniques Dale Carnegie prescribes in his 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People.
When you smile at someone, the “threat” part of the recipient’s brain slows down and the”connection” part of the brain speeds up. When I didn’t smile at that young woman in university, I came across as threatening.
But it can’t be just any smile. If someone is faking a smile we can detect it and our “threat” synapses keep firing.
Lowndes prescribes what she calls a “flooding smile.” Here’s how it works. Don’t instantly smile when you see someone. Instead, take a moment to connect with that person by looking them in the face. If you do, a warm, responsive smile will “flood over your face and overflow into your eyes.”
2. Talk about the other person
We all know someone who only wants to talk about himself or herself. Tell him a story about something that happened to you, he’ll counter with something that happened to him. Had a bad day? Hers was worse. Accomplished something amazing? You can be sure that person has done it before, only ten times better.
Is this someone we’re attracted to spend time with? Not at all.
The people we want to spend time with are people who seem interested in spending time with us.
If you look at Carnegie’s six ways to make people like you almost all of them are about paying attention to the other person. Here’s the full list:
- Become genuinely interested in other people
- Remember that a person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
What’s not on this list? Bragging, boasting, criticizing and complaining. You know why? Because people don’t actually care how great you are; what really matters to them is how great you think they are. So if you want to drive people away, talk about your accomplishments. If you want to connect with them, ask them about theirs.
What about you? What’s worked best for you in connecting with others?
This is a great post Keith. Re: people’s names, do you have any good tips for remembering? I am the WORST! I’m at a new job now and meeting lots of people at a rapid rate. Not only do I forget their names, but faces too and have had several embarrassing situations where I go to introduce myself, only for the other person to remind me that we’ve already met. This is not ideal. I don’t seem to have a good tactic for this. Any suggestions?
When people tell me their name I try to associate it with someone I already have in my head. Like if I meet someone and they tell me “My name is Brad” – that’s easy one… I just picture Bred Pitt and it sticks in my mind. Now, it can be challenging when you are not following public figures as much (which happened to me as I grew older)… but otherwise association is great technique for memorization.
I’ve heard this before too, but never really tried it enough to be successful at it.
Sorry, can’t help with this one… not yet. I’ve never been very good with names either. But maybe this is something I should research and write about in a future post!
Yes please! That would be so helpful. I find the only way I remember is if I write it down… which isn’t really practical in most social situations. Name tags help me a lot, but again, not normal unless I’m at a conference, an even then, if a great deal of time passes, I forget again. 🙁
Miranda, a lot of people have issues with People, names and faces. It’s not that you don’t have a good memory per say, but it sounds like a neurological issue. Don’t freak out. Minor tweaking from a functional neurologist plus some simple exercises can really help with this. If your brain is functioning optimally in that area, it won’t matter what tricks you use. I write a lot about functional neurology and brain health
Some techniques for remembering names – when you are introduced to someone say their name out loud. “Hi, Mary”. Try to address them by their name during a brief conversation perhaps by asking a simple question “Joan, do you know a good place for lunch?” or paying them a compliment ” I love the sweater your wearing, Sarah.” You could also make conversation about their name by relating it to some one you know “Thomas was my grandfather’s name.” or if their name is a short or long version you could ask ” Do you prefer to be called John or Johnathon?” When ending an initial conversation repeat their name again “It was nice to meet you, Donna” or “I will see you at the staff meeting, Chris.” Speaking their name several times during the initial conversation with them can help you remember the name and face. Hope this helps.
LOVE your quote about smiling in a way that is overflows… These are such good tips. It’s hard to be mindful in the moment especially if your nervous!
Thanks Emily! So glad you liked the post.
Good advice 🙂 I did have to laugh a bit at the “Remember that a person´s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language” … not so sure about that one… 😉 However for the most part I think this would work very well 🙂
I’m not sure about the “name” one either, but let’s remember Dale Carnegie first wrote this eighty years ago!
Personally I’m not great at ‘small-talk’, thank you for the tips! Will try to use them from now on.
I saw on your blog that you describe yourself as an introvert like me. Introverts like us can learn the skills to master small talk and connecting with people, but too much social interaction will always be exhausting for us!
The tip on aiming for a “flooding” smile is spot on. Even when stressed, if I can greet and converse with others, engage in eye contact and achieve a flooding smile, it instantly sets them at ease (even slightly), and also helps to diffuse any tension I’m perhaps feeling in that moment. This allows for a better connection to be established and is an approach I’ve learned the value of, both personally and professionally, over the years.
Thank you for sharing!
To be honest, I’m still not great at smiling. Good to hear you’ve mastered the flooding smile!
That was a very nice post, I can really use these tips. I also try to smile more and luckily I can easily remember the names of everyone I meet. 🙈😅But people often think I am unfriendly when I am just too shy, so I can totally identify with you. Have a nice day! Marina 😊
That’s great that you’re so good at remembering names! And I’m glad you liked the post Marina.
this was a great read. I am now planning to buy both of those books you mentioned. I agree, people always naturally want to start talking about themselves. I’ve caught myself sometimes and try to turn the conversation around. sometimes you can get so excited about things you’re working on that you forget about the other person. also, a fellow transplant recipient here (lungs, not kidney) but it’s nice to see other transplant patients on here!
Wow! Lung transplant. That’s huge. Congratulations Jackie! I hope you do enjoy those books. Leil Lowndes, who wrote How to Talk to Anyone, has a new book coming out on how to talk to people at work. I’ll be interviewing her for my upcoming podcast when that comes out.
Love this, and I am an introvert as well. In grade school, my introverted-ness used to be mistaken for being stuck up, but I was really the shy artist type! Complimenting people has helped, me – but it has to be genuine. I also try not to compliment on appearances, as there is so much more to a person…