What is the one thing you and everyone you know have in common? One of the core aspects of human nature? Answer: the need to be liked. As Aristotle said, the human is a social creature; society is something that precedes the individual. Hence, being liked plays a big part in our overall happiness. Just take a look at practically every movie about High School ever made – there’s the popular crowd and the ones who wish they were part of it.
So how can you get people to like you? Here are some clever tricks from Leil Lowndes’ book, How to Talk to Anyone.
The ‘Flooding Smile’
We all know smiling is important. It makes us more approachable and helps people perceive us positively. But simply smiling isn’t enough – there’s one key tweak you need to make: slow it down! “Don’t flash an immediate smile when you greet someone,” recommends Leil. That makes the recipient feel as though you’d do so for anyone who walked into your line of sight. Instead, look at the other person’s face for a second. Pause. Soak in their persona. Then let a big, warm, responsive smile flood over your face and overflow into your eyes. It will engulf the recipient like a warm wave. The split-second delay convinces people your flooding smile is genuine and only for them.”
The ‘Hello, Old Friend’
When you meet someone new, your brain goes into overdrive trying to analyse their body language as well as your own. When our bodies are shooting off ten thousand bullets of stimuli every second, a few shots are apt to misfire and reveal shyness or hidden hostility. However, when with a friend or loved one, we respond warmly from head to toe without a thought. Wouldn’t it be great if you could feel at ease like that with everybody? Leil says you can and should.
“When meeting someone, play a mental trick on yourself. In your mind’s eye, see him or her as an old friend, someone you had a wonderful relationship with years ago,” she says. Then tell yourself you lost track of this dear friend, and tried to find them to no avail. Suddenly, WOW! What a surprise! After all those years, the two of you are reunited.
“The joyful experience starts a remarkable chain reaction in your body, from the subconscious softening of your eyebrows to the positioning of your toes – and everything between,” claims Leil.
Obviously, you’re not going to try and convince the person that you actually know them – that would be creepy.
Bonus: this technique is a self-fulfilling prophecy – when you act as though you like someone, you start to really like them. An Adelphi University study called “Believing Another Likes or Dislikes You: Behaviors Making the Beliefs Come True” proved it.
The ‘Word Detective’
Ever wondered how to get people excited about talking to you? Or perhaps how to save a dying conversation? Leil has. And she has the answer. According to her, there are clues to be found when someone is speaking to you. That’s why she advises us to, “be on the lookout for any unusual references: any anomaly, deviation, digression, or invocation of another place, time, or person.”
Once you’ve done that, ask about it— it’s the clue to what your conversation partner would really enjoy discussing.
“If two people have something in common, when the shared interest comes up, they jump on it naturally,” says Leil. She gives us an example: if someone mentions playing squash (bird-watching or stamp collecting) and the listener shares that passion, he or she pipes up, “Oh, you’re a squasher (or birder or philatelist), too!”
You don’t even need to be any of those things - all you need to do is pick up on the reference as though it interests you.
One thing we worry about in conversations – awkward pauses. How do you know what to say next? How can we avoid them altogether? Leil has the answer: ‘parroting’.
All it entails is repeating the last two or three words the other person said, in a sympathetic, questioning tone. In her book, Leil tells us of one time when her friend picked her up from the airport and she was too tired from her flight to make conversation. As she was drifting off, her friend was telling her about his visit to the theatre the other night. “Theatre?” she parroted quizzically. “Yes, it was a great show,” he replied, fully expecting it to be the last word on the subject before she fell into a sleepy stupor. “Great show?” Leil parroted again. Pleasantly surprised by her interest, he said, “Yes, it’s a new show by Stephen Sondheim called Sweeney Todd.” “Sweeney Todd ?” Now her friend was getting fired up. “Yeah, great music and an unbelievably bizarre story. . . .” “Bizarre story?” For the next half an hour, he told Leil the show’s story about a London barber who went around murdering people. To this day, he recalls it as one of the best conversations they’ve ever had. And all she did was parrot him.
Just make sure when you try it, you don’t sound as clueless as a parrot who doesn’t actually understand what they’re saying – there are other ways to get a person to elaborate on something, such as saying “oh?”, “really?” or “yeah?”
Lastly, and most importantly: the trick to making everyone you meet love talking to you!
The ‘Swivelling Spotlight’
In her book, Leil recounts asking a friend post-party who the most interesting person she met there was. “Oh by far, Dan Smith,” her friend replied. But when Leil asked what Dan does for a living, where he lived, and what he’s interested in, her friend drew blanks.
“What did you talk about?”, Leil inquired. “Well, I guess we talked mostly about me.” Leil later met Dan Smith and discovered that he lives in Paris, has a beach home in the south of France and a mountain home in the Alps. Dan travels around the world producing sound and light shows for pyramids and ancient ruins – and is an avid hang glider and scuba diver. How neat is he?
Yet, when talking to Leil’s friend, Dan said nothing about himself. And that’s exactly the trick. “When you meet someone, imagine a giant revolving spotlight between you. When you’re talking, the spotlight is on you. When the new person is speaking, it’s shining on him or her,” says Leil. “If you shine it brightly enough on them, the stranger will be blinded to the fact that you have hardly said a word about yourself. The longer you keep it shining away from you, the more interesting he or she finds you.”
With these five clever conversation tactics and facial expression fixes, you’ll be on your way to being everybody’s favourite person!
You can purchase Leil’s book, How to Talk to Anyone, here.
By Salma Thanatos Rizk