Connecting with People: It's Easy (If You Do These 3 Things)
Monday, 7 October 2013
You know those people who can just walk into a room and instantly become best friends with everyone? It seems like they have some secret quality that makes them charming, magnetic, and completely approachable.
Have you ever wanted to be one of those people? Chances are you have. And I bet you still do.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s much, much easier than it seems to learn how to connect with people – to anyone and nearly everyone – anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
Today I’m going to show you a few simple steps to transform the way you interact with others, and master connecting with people.
Connecting with people comes about in the most unexpected of situations. But learning how to adapt to these scenarios and take advantage of opportunities is a hallmark of the ability to connect.
The dictionary defines “connection” as the superficial link that you may form with someone in a given situation.
But I think there’s a lot more to connecting with someone than a “superficial link.” I really enjoy the business and religious definition of connecting, so that’s what I will use.
Connecting: The ability to identify with and relate to people in a way that increases your influence with them and their influence with you.
A few days ago, I met up with a friend of mine at one of the big bars in town as the night was wrapping up. He told me that he had two girls with him and wanted to bounce back to my place, which was nearby (ah, good logistics).
When I arrived at the scene, he had two attractive girls with him, as promised. He was hemming and hawing about inviting them back, so I decided to condense the nonsense.
However, before I said anything, I noticed that one of the girls was quietly upset. She wasn’t crying or anything, but she looked like someone who had just had the life energy sucked out of her. So I said:
Me: Hey, My name is Colt. You look like you’re a little down. I live nearby, why don’t you and your friend come grab some refreshments, unwind, and we’ll talk about it?
Her: Even though I’ve known [your friend] for almost four years now, I trust you a lot more than I trust him. Actually, I trust you more than any of the guys I’ve met in a while.
A couple of years ago, this reaction would’ve surprised me. But now, I get it surprisingly often. We ended up having a deep conversation and spending the whole night up together; and even though I will probably never see her again, it was a connection that both of us will remember for quite a while. And if I did see her, we could pick up right where we left off.
That is what connection does for you.
So, I bet you’re wondering how you can create moments like this for yourself. Well, there are three (3) main parts to being able to connect with anyone. Connecting with people is one of those things that’s simple, but does take time if you’re just starting. And in order to become a person who always receives the trust and admiration of strangers, you must master all three of those main parts.
#1: You Have to be Selfless
A while back I wrote an article on leadership. In it, I noted the research that the most successful leaders were the ones who collaborated with others and built a sense of camaraderie and teamwork. It is said that being a leader means serving others first. This is the exact same mindset you should take into building connection. People who are pros at building connection use this mindset as their foundation, and build upon it with this these traits:
Humility. It’s important that you always remain humble in every social situation, even if you are a man of high social value. No one ever wants to connect with someone who boasts about himself or thinks he’s better than everyone else.
Genuine Interest. It is 100% impossible to truly connect with someone if you don’t have a genuine interest in who they are or what they have to say. And there definitely will come times when people will excitedly chat you up about something you could care less about. There may be times where you will say very little in a conversation. In these situations you can either cut the conversational thread and try to find something you both care about, or you can cultivate a stronger sense of…
Curiosity. If you want to be able to connect with anyone, you have to be curious about a lot things (which most people are) and actually act on it (which most people don’t). If you see someone with an interesting necklace on, you can say, “Hey, that’s a really unique necklace, I love it! Do you mind telling me more about it?”
Developing the habit of acting on your curiosity will allow you have an endless well of topics to discuss, because you will always be able to ask questions that will get people talking - and you may even learn a thing or two!
Approachability. You know those people whom you meet one minute, and feel like you’ve known for years the next? Those people have a high level of approachability. If you want to learn this trait, you must learn how to be a warm person. Warm people tend to be relaxed, have open body language, and have inviting facial expressions, like vibrant, unforced smiles. You can’t learn to connect with people if they’re not comfortable coming up to you (or having you come up to them).
Mirroring. People only open themselves up during conversation when they see themselves in you. Learning how to mirror people is an incredibly powerful technique for building instant positive rapport. To do so, I suggest learning how to identify the four different Social Styles, and adapting your approach based on the type of person you’re talking to.
Second, learning how to ask the right questions in order to figure out what people care about will allow you to keep positive conversational loops going and will get people excited to talk to you. This is why curiosity is so important. If you have random knowledge about a wide array of topics, you’ll be able to at least understand where people are coming from with their passions.
Third, sum up what people say to you. If someone shares a fact or a story, and you sum up the key parts/emotions that they just talked about, she will instantly feel like you “get her” and will continue to invest in you.
Focused eye contact. Eye contact is one of those things that should be emphasized and talked about more often. The brain sends out tons of relationship-building chemicals when you’re making eye contact with someone. Yet, many people avoid it because it can have that strong of an effect on you. People who are masters of connection take full advantage of eye contact and use it to their benefit. So, if you’re a guy who struggles with eye contact, try doing simple exercises like looking at your eyes in the mirror or consciously holding eye contact with close friends. These small habits will allow you to more consciously make eye contact in social settings.
Understanding/Non-Judgmental. A master of connection understands that everyone has their faults and their insecurities, just as he has his own. So make sure you remain non-judgmental when people share details about their lives that may make them self-conscious.
Passion/Contagious Emotion. The power of emotional contagion cannot be understated. Our mirror neurons are always firing, and we’re constantly picking up cues and energy from the people around us. So if you want people to get fired up by your energy, you have to learn how to build your social momentum early, and keep your emotional state independent of the situation. I suggest talking to anyone and everyone you can, exercising, and meditating in order to maintain your energy – especially if you’re naturally introverted. Also, beware of emotional vampires…they prey on passion and positivity.
Inspiration. Inspiration is something that nearly every writer on this site has talked about at one point or another (including me, in my first article on Girls Chase). If you want to connect with people – women, bartenders, entrepreneurs, the elderly, anybody – you have to be able to inspire them. If they walk away from conversation with you thinking, “Wow, that guy really got me thinking. I should start making more positive decisions,” you will consistently have a powerful effect on people. I saved this one for last because it is a culmination of all of the previous traits.
Inspiration is essentially: passion + contagious energy + selflessness.
When you’ve got people feeling inspired by you, you’ve got this first component on lock.
#2: You Have to Add Value
The second component to being able to connect with anyone is the ability to add value. Value is just another way of saying that you’re serving others in a tangible way. If you’re constantly creating value for people, not only will they hold you in high regard, they will more likely reciprocate favors when you need them, and follow your lead in social situations.
As I mentioned in my article on presence, I used to always freestyle rap about people’s favorite topics in order to add value (and still do on occasion). But in the adult/professional world, that’s usually not going to cut it, heh. So here are a few (of many) examples of how you can add value in your efforts to connect with people.
Give unique compliments. People never get tired of hearing nice things about themselves. However, try to go beyond a generic compliment and give someone something that they aren’t likely to forget. A woman once wrote my name on a nametag, and I told her that she could’ve penned the declaration of independence with her handwriting. Turned out she came from a long line of calligraphy masters that started in the 17th Century…you never know what you’ll discover if you zero in on something unique.
Offer good advice. Chances are you’re an expert in something. So if you learn of a problem that someone is having that you could offer some key perspective on, this can go a long, long way. Don’t do it in a condescending manner, but say something like, “If you don’t mind me offering my opinion, and do feel free to ignore it, maybe you should…” People appreciate those who can solve their problems, or at least make them less hairy for them.
Share. Sharing is caring. It’s great advice. Sharing some food or something else that you have on you – even if it’s small – can generate big results. It’s not only a great way to start a conversation, but it makes an incredible first impression as well.
I was once on a train from Thailand to Malaysia. There was a cute Aussie girl who was offering a bite of some street food that she picked up before the ride. But, everyone refused it for some strange reason. When she got to me, I told her my first rule of travel: unless it puts you in danger, always say yes. And then I shared a freestyle with her when I found out it was her birthday.
These simple acts eventually led to the two of us going on an unforgettable tropical island adventure together…so yeah. Share, share, share.
Be giving. I used to have a pair of friends who would take mental notes of one or two things that people really enjoyed or were passionate about. And every so often – out of the blue – they would give someone a gift of his favorite object or food or whatever it was. Needless to say, these friends were loved by all. Not only was it the act of giving in itself, but it was also a demonstration of how much they paid attention and a validation of the people they connected with. This can be a very powerful way of sparking a connection with someone you hope to meet (maybe a high-profile presenter visiting your town) or with someone you just connected with (that colleague whom you hope to build a stronger relationship with).
Learn to be a strong conversationalist. You will never master the art of connection if you don’t learn how to approach people and give them a solid conversation. It’s actually really funny how few people are able to escape mundane conversation. Once they get past “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” they run out of steam and start talking about the weather or discussing some other dry-as-bones topic.
If you want to be a good conversationalist, you have to ask interesting questions. Ask someone’s opinion on something that matters to you. Ask her what the best part of her life right now is. Ask what she wants to most improve on in the next couple of months. Questions like these do two things for you:
They are broad questions that elicit a deep answer.
They break people out of autopilot and have them take notice of the person asking them questions.
Help people make connections. A very effective way of connecting with people is paying it forward. If you meet someone who would really gel with someone else you know for personal or professional reasons, be sure to connect them. People love being introduced to other like-minded people without trying. And they’ll always remember who connected them in the first place.
#3: You Have to be Vulnerable
This is probably the hardest of these three components. It’s important to emphasize that connection is mutual. If someone is just investing in you, and you have no particular interest in what’s going on in her life or her sense of well-being, that’s not connection.
You don’t have to be as invested in an interaction or relationship as other people are, but you do have to have some investment and positive emotional association with the person.
This TED talk is called “The Power of Vulnerability.” It essentially outlines that people who allow themselves to be vulnerable:
- Are more resilient to the challenges of life
- Have a higher capacity for interpersonal connection
- Are more empathetic
- Are generally happier
A lot of men believe that being vulnerable means that you are weak or not masculine. But really, vulnerability is the exact opposite. Men who are able to connect with people and serve others realize that there is no way any individual can win the battle of life alone. So once you “overcome your sense of separateness” from other people, as Brown put it in the video, you will be able to unlock new levels of potential and life effectiveness.
So if you want to master the final piece to connecting with people, learn these practices:
Learn to take advantage of the bonding chemical. Oxytocin is the chemical in the brain that is responsible for the feelings of affection and attachment between people. It’s released when you make eye contact with people. It’s released when you hug someone. It’s released in floods in women when they have sex with you (and especially when the reach orgasm).
It’s released when you reach out to people. Every time you share something personal with someone during a face-to-face interaction, both of your brains release oxytocin. Not only is this chemical for bonding, it also performs some major healing in your body as well. So being vulnerable is physically good for you. Understand the power of the bonding chemical and take this knowledge with you in future interactions.
Share personal details about your life. If someone asks you a mundane question, spice it up by giving them a thoughtful, deep answer. You don’t have to give them your life story, but get the ball rolling with an honest answer. Don’t be afraid to talk about your weaknesses and shortcomings. This is an easy way to disarm people, because it shows that you’re down-to-earth and just like them. And as you build deeper rapport, tell relational stories to strengthen your connection with them.
Trust people. Trust is the basis of connection. The easiest way to make yourself a trustworthy person is to trust others yourself. Obviously, be judicious with whom you place your confidence, but if you show people that you have faith in them, they will place a great amount of confidence in you, your thoughts, and your words.
Invest in people. Investment is funny because in seduction, you want to minimize your level of investment while maximizing a girl’s level of investment in you. But if you want to connect with people, you want to keep investment levels pretty equal. At times, you’ll want to invest a bit less. And at other times, you want to invest a little bit more. If people see that you place high value on your relationship with them (not too high, but reasonable) they will usually respond in kind, and mutually work to build a relationship through give and take. And as more time passes, this process will only continually strengthen your connections.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. The most secure and well-liked men are able to laugh at themselves. Humor is a great way to make yourself relatable and a powerful method for remaining relaxed and poised in nearly any social situation.
Connection is about investing in others while being open about yourself. If you can master the three components that allow you to reach out to people, you will be able to connect with anyone.
- Be Selfless
- Add Value
- Be Vulnerable
Now go out and be the person everyone wants to connect with. And while you’re out doing that…
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