Photo by Ben Duchac on Unsplash
This article first appeared on SHE'SAID' and has been republished with permission.
Meeting new people can be a surprisingly challenging experience.
Whether it’s in the workplace, out at cocktails on a Friday night, or networking at a party, breaking the ice and starting a conversation is, quite frankly, terrifying – especially when you really want that person to like you. What if you say something which offends them? Or make a joke that doesn’t land, and you’re met with awkward stares and an unnaturally loud silence? What if you come off obnoxious, or mean, or – *gasp* – boring?!
We all think we know the secrets to winning someone over; smile, be polite, nod your head and laugh at their jokes. But while these people-pleasing techniques might make someone come away from your interaction thinking you were a nice enough person, you haven’t really built rapport and made them like you.
The secret to leaving a lasting impression is knowing how people behave, and what those behaviors mean. That’s where Robin Dreeke comes in.
Dreeke was the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Program for over 27 years, so he’s an expert on interpersonal relationships and knowing what makes people tick.
Here are Dreeke’s top tips on how to build quick rapport with absolutely anyone, and in the process, make them genuinely like you…
1. Don’t be judgmental.
No one likes to feel like they’re being judged, and so Dreeke’s number one piece of advice is to enter into every interaction with someone in a non-judgmental way.
“Seek someone else’s thoughts and opinions without judging them. People do not want to be judged in any thought or opinion that they have or in any action that they take,” explains Dreeke.
“Understanding where they’re coming from, showing interest in what they’re saying and letting them talk about themselves without interaction is the key to likability. Everyone wants to feel validated, and so offering that to someone will instantly boost your chances of them liking you when your interaction is over.”
2. Put aside your ego.
Most of us have an ego that can get in the way of making friends and getting people to like you. If you’re the type of person who lives for proving other people wrong or correcting someone when you think they’ve made a mistake, or you’re constantly trying to one-up them with your own stories, you’re killing your chances at building rapport.
“Ego suspension is putting your own needs, wants and opinions aside. Consciously ignore your desire to be correct and to correct someone else,” says Dreeke.
If you’re putting your ego front and center, other people can see it – and generally don’t respond well to this behavior. Putting your ego aside can make you seem more open and friendly.
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3. Be a good listener.
We all know we should listen to other people, but knowing this and doing it are two completely different beasts. Most people have no idea how to really listen, but being able to really hear what someone is saying is a surprisingly simple way to get them to like you. According to Dreeke, this includes turning off your reflex to start thinking about what you’re going to say to someone while they’re still talking.
“What you do is this: as soon as you have that story or thought that you want to share, toss it. Consciously tell yourself, “I am not going to say it.” All you should be doing is asking yourself, ‘What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?'” Dreeke explains.
This will give off the impression you actually heard and care about what the person had to say, instead of using their story as an opportunity to begin talking about yourself again.
4. Ask the right questions.
People love talking about themselves. In fact, studies show we get more pleasure when talking about ourselves than we do when talking about food or money. And getting people talking about Number One is all about asking the right questions.
These questions will vary from person to person, and depend on what you’re trying to get out of a situation – you’d ask different questions at a business dinner than at a bar, for example. Dreeke’s go-to, however, is to inquire about something everyone experiences – challenges.
“A great question I love is challenges. “What kind of challenges did you have at work this week? What kind of challenges do you have living in this part of the country? What kinds of challenges do you have raising teenagers?” Everyone has got challenges. It gets people to share what their priorities in life are at that point in time,” says Dreeke.
5. Make them feel at ease.
If you’re trying to win someone over who you’ve never met or spoken to before, your priority is to make them feel comfortable talking to you. An easy way to achieve this, is to tell them up front that you’ve got to leave soon, and so only have a few moments to chat. According to Dreeke, this takes the pressure off, which is a surefire hack for putting a person at ease.
“When people think you’re leaving soon, they relax. If you sit down next to someone at a bar and say, “Hey, can I buy you a drink?” their shields go way up. It’s “Who are you, what do you want, and when are you leaving?” That “when are you leaving” is what you’ve got to answer in the first couple of seconds,” he explains.
6. Pay attention to body language.
Body language is important in any situation, especially if you’re trying to make friends and get people to like you. In fact, sometimes the signals you give off with your body are more important than anything you actually say, and so it’s important to pay attention to the impression you may be unconsciously giving off, through your posture, eye contact, or gesticulations.
“The number one thing is you’ve got to smile. You absolutely have to smile. A smile is a great way to engender trust,” Dreeke emphasizes.
He also suggests keeping your chin angle down so you’re not ‘looking down’ at anyone, giving small head tilts to show interest, and standing at a bit of an angle, so you’re not imposing on someone’s personal space. Finally, he says you should try to keep your palms up, as that communicates openness.
“I always want to make sure that I’m showing good, open, comfortable non-verbals. I just try to use high eyebrow elevations. Basically, anything going up and elevating is very open and comforting. Anything that is compressing: lip compression, eyebrow compression, where you’re squishing down, that’s conveying stress.”.