Even though everyone is entitled to their own personality and self-expression, there are basic steps that everyone can take to improve relationships with those around you. Making a better impression on those around you and developing a stronger reputation can go a long way in networking, career development and socialization.
Be respectful and polite to everyone you meet. This means your friends, complete strangers and, most importantly, yourself! If you act judgmental or with a dismissive attitude towards other people, they will most likely return the same negative feelings towards you. Making others feel welcomed and appreciated will go a long way towards your success in making friends.
- Interact with strangers nicely and calmly, request favors patiently, respond to others promptly and remember your pleases and thank-you’s.
- Remember that everyone you’re interacting with is human, too. Just because you’re paying someone to wait on your table doesn’t give you the right to be rude; treat them like you’d want to be treated if you were in their position.
- As J.K. Rowling put it, “It’s easier to see what someone is really like by how they treat their inferiors, not their equals.”
Be confident. People like to be around others who are sure of themselves without being arrogant. Be confident in who you are without constantly stepping on others’ toes. A healthy level of confidence is knowing you’re pretty great, but that there’s always someone better than you.
- If you always criticize yourself and seem to be unhappy with who you are, you run the risk of people feeling the same way about you. After all, if you aren’t pleased with yourself, why should others be?
- The other side of the coin is just as bad — too cocky and people will think you like yourself so much that no one else needs to. The aim is contentment, not excessive pride.
Be honest, but do so gently. It is particularly important to be honest to your friends and people who solicit you for advice. Usually, people can tell when someone is lying and fake; insincere people are not well-liked. People you want to be around should not tolerate liars.
- When someone asks, “Does this make me look fat?” (yes, it’s a cliché, but it’s a classic example), make your comments gently, framed in a way that is unlikely to upset them. If you know your fashion, tell them WHY. They’re sure to trust you knowing that you were honest and appreciate that you’re helping them.
- It is a trickier idea to be brutally honest with someone who does not solicit your advice. Bringing up a comment like that can either generate appreciative responses or offended looks, depending on the person’s personality, so judge the situation at your own risk. You should probably avoid initiating negative comments, no matter how truthful, with people whom you are not closely acquainted or good friends with.
Listen. There is not a single person on this planet who feels like they receive too much attention (a single person not constantly followed by paparazzi at least). When we humans engage in conversation, most of us are looking for someone to be genuinely interested in what we have to say — the input of the other is secondary. Don’t think you’re being boring! You’re letting the other person feel good about themselves.
- It’s important to listen actively, though. If someone is going on and on about the most effective way to wash their dog, glazing over, while tempting, is not being a good listener. Try to engage your entire self at all times — your eyes, the nodding of your head, commenting and questioning, and the positioning of your body — it should all be focused on them.
Ask questions. A huge part of being a good conversationalist (and when you’re listening) is asking questions. A social jiu-jitsu master has someone walking away after a conversation feeling good and not realizing they didn’t learn a dang thing about the other person because they were talking so much. Be that person. Ask who, why, or how. The other will feel appreciated, liked, and go on a spiel that takes the pressure off you. And they’ll like you for it.
- Keep everything open-ended. If Jill from the office says, “God, I just spend hours on this freakin’ Powerpoint,” jump in! Ask her what it was for, why it took longer than normal, or how she did the research. Even a bias topic like a Powerpoint can start a good conversation where Jill feels paid attention to.
Use their name. One of the tenants of Dale Carnegie’s massively successfully “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is to use a person’s name in conversation. Hearing our own name activates a region in our brains that remains dormant at any other sound and we love it. Our names are our identity and conversing with someone who uses it makes us feel like our identity is acknowledged. So the next time you’re speaking to that acquaintance, slip their name in. Odds are they’ll feel a bond to you that may not exist otherwise.
- This is fairly easy to do. The most obvious way is to add it on to your greeting. “Hey, Rob, how are you?” is much more personal than, “Hey, how are you?” And if you’re close enough to Rob to say, “Hey, Rockin’ Robby D! How are you, man?” that works, too. Apart from greetings, it can be inserted casually just about anywhere. Initiating a conversation — “What do you think of this for my desktop, Rob?” — or just as a comment, “Rob, you’re being ridiculous again.” Rob will practically feel like your best friend.
Know your audience. Odds are you know people from a few different social groups. Getting the Plastics at high school to like you (if they’re capable of actually liking people) is a much different path than getting your engineering classmates at Harvard to call you up on a Friday night. So know who you’re dealing with. What do they like? What do they seem to value? What interests them?
- If you want to be genuinely liked (being popular and being liked are not the same thing), you’re in luck: generally, humans all like the same qualities. And no, wealth and attractiveness aren’t high up on the list. Trustworthiness, honesty, warmth and kindness are, in a recent study, the highest rated, most valued qualities (across the board of relationships), while extraversion, intelligence and sense of humor come in close behind.
Recognize reciprocation. You can ask all the questions you want, be super polite, say all the right things, and sometimes people still won’t be having it. If every time you walk up to Johnny he miraculously gets a phone call, take the hint. Spend your resources elsewhere. This will happen — there’s no pleasing everyone. While it’s very important to put in effort, put it in where it’s due.
- Relationships are a give and take. If you’re constantly the one making the effort, sending the texts, going out of your way to be nice and friendly, take a look at the situation. If there’s an explanation (the person is going through a hard time, they work 60 hours a week, etc.), then you may have to do the brunt of the work. But if they’re responsive to other people but don’t seem to have the time for you, go elsewhere. You can’t be friends with everyone.
Make them laugh. Everyone and their brother appreciates the person who can ease the tension in the room and make them laugh. A good sense of humor can go a long, long way. When people know you’re playful and looking to have a good time, they want to join in. It’s also a great way to be approachable because people know what to say (they want to be liked just as much as you do) — they can joke with you, too! Win, win, win.
- If once in a while people have to laugh at you, great! If you can laugh too, you’re good to go. That shows you’re down-to-earth and not overly concerned with your image — two very good things. And research even shows that embarrassing yourself makes people like and trust you more — you become a real person. Makes sense, doesn’t it?