When you’re trying to make new friends, your inclination may be to make all the effort and try to entertain. Not only is this physically exhausting, it’s prone to failure.
Don’t try so hard
It’s not actually difficult to make friends. In fact, it’s really about having faith in a handful of tried and tested tips and strategies. They will help to make people more comfortable around you. They will make you more approachable, more likeable, and more likely to be drawn in to future conversations and activities.
My tips and strategies are listed below. The idea is that you select the one’s you feel most closely match your personality and adapt them to the particular situation you’re in.
Watch and Listen
Actually, this is a fundamental skill and should probably be listed as the number one activity.
You’ve done the meet and greet and you may even have met the other person or group of people before, but you don’t really know them yet. Even if you do, you don’t know what’s on their mind right now.
Take the time to pay attention to them. Listen to what they are talking about. Observe their body language. Pay attention and gather as much information as possible. It will come in very handy going forward.
It’s really about them
Now it’s time to show some interest and become a more active participant in the conversation. Use the insights you’ve gained by listening and observing and start be making it about them. As Dale Carnegie put it:
Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.
Cynicism to one side, think back on situations when someone you’ve met has shown interest in what you do or what you have to say. If they’ve been skilled in how they communicate it won’t feel intrusive. In fact it feels good. So long as the interest is, or at least feels, genuine, it leaves a very favorable impression.
People like it when someone else is interested in them, and in turn, they tend to like the person showing the interest.
Dale Carnegie again:
a person is more interested in his or her own name than in all the other names on earth put together. . . .… one of the simplest, most obvious and most important ways of gaining good will [is] by remembering names and making people feel important — yet how many of us do it?
On the plus side, hearing our name spoken has a big effect. Pay attention the next time someone calls you by your name, particularly your first name. It creates an instant connection and rapport.
But, be careful. Some sales people are taught to extract a name and then use it multiple times on the basis that it cements a connection. Have you ever been on the receiving end? It feels contrived and awkward. As a result it becomes off-putting.
Using a name effectively works better if it seems to flow seamlessly within a conversation. Easy ways of doing this is to ask a question, or to seek clarification on a point. “So, what did you do then, John?”
We are attracted to confident people and we tend to trust someone who seems to know what they are doing or talking about.
Use this to your advantage by being confident. Confidence is a skill and as such can be developed. In fact, if you pretend to be confident, sooner or later you will start to feel more confident.
Use your body language, the tone of voice, and what you’re saying to convey confidence. In other words, say it with conviction, and they will believe that you know what you’re talking about. This, in turn, will make you a much more attractive and charismatic person.
It is fun to gossip, isn’t it? It makes for easy small talk, and you may even feel that it gives you something to bond over with another person. But there’s a problem.
When we gossip, the other person almost immediately thinks about us gossiping with others. They may continue to be pleasant to your face, but your gossiping is being registered. Gossip creates feelings of mistrust and dishonesty, which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to achieve.
In order to win people over it’s important to cultivate trust.
Be Honest and trustworthy
- If you say you’re going to do something, do it.
- If you say you’ll be somewhere at a certain time, be there.
- If they share a confidence with you, keep it to yourself.
- Don’t lie, you’ll almost certainly be caught out one day.
- Be considerate.
- Apologise when you’re wrong.
- Be loyal.
The little details matter
Have you ever crossed paths with a person who you only briefly met months before but who remembered something important about that meeting?
Maybe they recall the names of your children, or that you were thinking of buying a puppy. Those little details make people feel special.
Some of the most charismatic and successful leaders have developed this into an art form. They’ve taught themselves to remember and use these little, but oh-so-important details. As you practice, you get better.
Shared experiences are powerful
Okay, this is all about context, timing, and the potential, desire, or possibly need, to strengthen bonds. Nobody wants to feel they’re being stalked or that you’re trying to impose yourself into their life after a 10 minute conversation!
With that in mind, a good principle on the path to deepening any relationship is to look for shared experiences. Perhaps offer to do stuff together, take an interest in what they watch, read, or any hobbies they share with you.
Making an effort to stay in touch is just as important as shared experiences. Take the time to follow up with people after you meet them and going forward. Give them a call, send them an email, or even just a text message to check in and stay in touch. If your build up to the relationship has been well paced and positive, it will be appreciated. Relationships, any relationships, take time, effort, and care.
Mix and mingle
If you’re working with a team of people or are in any sort of leadership position, get involved and get your hands dirty. Nothing wins you the respect and friendship of your team faster than this one little thing.
In addition to building instant rapport with your team members, it also gives you a chance to observe them and talk to them while you all work away on a common task.
How you look and act counts
What we say, and how we say it, is actually just a small component of communication. Body language is vital. If you’re standing in front of someone you want to impress, using your most charming voice whilst staring at the floor simply won’t work.
If there’s one habit to get into it’s to make and maintain eye contact. If you’re an introverted person, or simply not used to this, it can seem a little uncomfortable at first. Trust me though, maintaining eye contact sends a powerful subliminal message to the other person. It says that you’re open, trustworthy, and most importantly that you are giving your full and undivided attention.
Start by making yourself stay in eye contact with people as you go through your everyday life. Practice with the cashier at the grocery store or the barista at your local coffee shop. If that seems too strange at first, start with your favourite TV show before you move on to real people.
Like so many other skills when it comes to creating that winning personality, it takes practice to perfect, and it takes a bit of confidence. If you’re not feeling very self-confident, looking other people in the eye may come as more of a challenge. In addition to simply practicing, it’s also a good idea to do what you can to boost your self-image and your self-confidence.
Putting yourself in the shoes of another person is a great skill to have or develop. Ask yourself what they are thinking and feeling and then try to see yourself in the same situation. You get a pretty good idea of why they do what they do, and what they need from you at this moment, or in a particular situation. (Try our Test Your Empathy Quiz).
Getting past conflict
Now let’s talk about how to tackle difficult situations and conflict. Finding common ground is especially helpful in an argument. No matter how pleasant you are and how good your people skills are, things aren’t always going to go smoothly. There may be conflict, arguments, and bad feelings.
Your job is to overcome them so everyone involved can move on. Don’t try to win the fight so much as problem solve your way through it. This doesn’t mean rolling over and giving up your rights to assertion. You are entitled to express your view, but it helps to pay attention to the perspectives of others. Conflict upsets people and most simply want some form of resolution. With this in mind your goal is to help smooth a path towards harmony. The best way to accomplish this is to find common ground.