Sometimes it’s tough to excel in social situations , especially when you’re around people you’ve never met before. I get it. I’ve been there.
Will they like me?
What if I say something stupid?
What if they don’t agree with my point of view?
I don’t know these people at all. How am I supposed to form a connection with them if I know nothing about them?
At this point, the average Joe will brag about his accomplishments and the general events going on in his life. He might start up talking about how he makes a killing working with his dad in commercial real estate, a trip he took to Alaska on a private jet, or how much fun he had getting bottle service in Miami for New Year’s Eve.
Now don’t get me wrong, these are all topics that are fine to talk about, and I’ll be the first to say that I love to talk about these kinds of experiences with my buddies. But not when you first meet someone. It comes off as trying way too hard. Instead of trying to tell your life story in 10 minutes, you need to flip the script.
Stop trying to talk about yourself, stop trying to focus on how you feel, and start focusing on the other person. Chances are they are feeling the same nervous energy and uncertainty about how to act around you.
That brings us to the major tip of the day:
Be interested, not interesting.
A good friend of mine from when I was in college in Dallas told me “ Everybody’s favorite topic is themselves.” And once I put it into practice, it was hard to ignore or discredit his advice. People LOVE talking about themselves.
Everybody has stuff going on in their lives, something they are passionate about and get lost in, and if you want to be skillful in social situations, it is your job to gently coax it out of them and let them do the talking.
Once you start to use this principle in your daily life you will be amazed at how many applications it has.
To give an example, last night I get a text from a friend I used to work with when I was a food runner at a restaurant. She tells me that she and a couple other people I know are going out to a bar and that they want me to join them for a beer. So I hop in my car and drive the 10 minutes to get to this bar.
When I get there I say what’s up to a couple of my friends, make the rounds, shake some hands, give some hugs, and present myself as a positive influence to the group with a smile and open body language.
Now before I sit down, I see one person who I haven’t met yet, so I go over shake his hand and introduce myself. His name is Chase and he started working at the same restaurant right around the time that I quit. I may have seen him a time or two, but I don’t really remember him. Not enough to have an existing rapport with him.
So here I am at the end of the table, talking with Chase and another buddy of mine, and we are naturally talking about life working at the restaurant, probably because it’s the one obvious thing that we all have in common. Eventually that spark dies out and it seems we have nothing to talk about.
I don’t know this new guy Chase, but I’m determined to figure something out about him and create some common ground. I see his new iWatch, and coincidentally it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one in person so I’m curious. We spend a little time talking about it, and after he fills me in and shows me how it works.
I notice my other buddy has a new watch too, and I compliment him on it, bringing him into the conversation (This is another good tactic to take the pressure off of yourself to do all the work). He goes on to tell me how it was a great christmas deal, and got a $1300 watch on sale for $375, which is pretty awesome. He goes on to tell me where he got it and that the sale is still going on.
So we keep talking and I keep asking questions, poking fun (not in a confrontational way, just how you and your buddies mess around with each other), and being generally interested in what they have to say.
After about 30 minutes I know the following about Chase:
- He used to work for an investment bank in Phoenix, Arizona. I am interested in the futures markets and do some trading on my own so we had a good time exchanging ideas and thoughts about that.
- He used to live in Vail, Colorado for a few years. I mention that I used to visit a nearby resort in Beaver Creek every spring, and we have another great conversation about food and good times out in Colorado.
- This conversation segues into him telling me about the time he started a restaurant with some investors while in Colorado, only to have the largest investor back out last minute and bomb the whole thing. I’ve had a few failures in life and business as well, I ask him if he learned anything from it, and we talked for a bit about the importance of just going for it, and if you fail, the worst thing is that you learn something that you can use in the future.
Our night keeps on going in the same direction, and by the end of the night these guys have spilled their guts to me and told me their life stories. Since they’ve opened up so much, they are feeling great (the beers probably helped) and we are goofing around like we are best pals, and one of these guys I just met that night.
For our last stop we go to a tiny dive bar where smoking is still allowed inside, so it can get pretty grimy when it’s busy, but we are still early enough to be able to breathe comfortably. At this point is the first time I am asked a question about myself. Chase asks me what I do for a living, and I don’t mention this blog, but I do mention that I work in real estate (that’s it, I barely said more than the words “real estate”).
Within 5 minutes he is telling me that he is looking for a house in the area, we exchange contact information and a few minutes later the group disperses for the night. I say goodbye to all of my work friends and my new friend Chase, and I drive home.
The point of me telling this story is to show how you can boost your value in a social situation simply by keeping an open mind, being curious, and asking other people about their lives (and being genuinely interested in what they have going on).
By following these very simple guidelines I divulged very little information about myself, learned a lot about these people, made them feel comfortable and open, and by the end of the night I had the name of a place to buy sick watches at a significant discount, and a real estate lead that could mean $5000-10000 in my bank account.
That doesn’t mean that this lead will work out or even that this guy was serious about buying a house. But what I hope I have demonstrated through this story is that when you stop focusing on yourself and start trying to make other people comfortable and sharing the details of their lives that they are passionate about, they tend to give back in very generous ways and this will inevitably work out in your favor.
Imagine doing this every time you meet a new person. You may not get leads for work every time or find watch discounts around your area, but you may meet some new friends who will invite you to fun parties, introduce you to new books and sources of information, funny YouTube Channels, or a new joke.
There is always something to learn from other people and there is always something to appreciate about someone. Find out what genuinely interests you about a person, and show through your actions and curious nature that you appreciate them, and they will open to you like a flower and generously give a gift right back.
Tips to remember:
- Be INTERESTED, not interesting
- take your focus off of yourself, and start giving other people your attention.
- feeling nervous at a social gathering? You can bet other people are feeling the same way. Embrace that nervous feeling because you can use that as a basis to relate with others and bring them out of their shell. People crave someone who can bring them out of their shell, help them be themselves, and bring out the best in others.
- Everybody’s favorite subject is themselves.
- Don’t fake it. I started with something as simple as complimenting someone on their watch. I did this because I actually thought the watch was cool and was interested. Don’t go talking to some dude about his tattoos if you could care less. They will see right through you. Be real and authentic, and you’ll be just fine.
I hope this article helps you, but if you are going to get anything from it, put it to use. Read this article before you go out. Do whatever it takes to get yourself in the mindset of focusing on others and helping them to have a good time. It doesn’t matter where. I don’t care if you are on your lunch break, out with friends, or out to lunch after church with your family. Have an open mind, because you never know who you whose life you might change, and who might be out there that can change your life.
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