Sunday, October 26, 2008

How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds: An Abbreviated Version

There are some people who always know what to say, know what sorts of questions to ask and who have perfectly timed smiles. Then there are those people who read books like How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds or Less. These are the same people who smile too soon or too late because they are too preoccupied collecting and organizing bits of information in their head that they might repeat later in a conversation or while making small talk at cocktail hour.

I've been meeting people lately who are the type that live and breathe How To Make People Like You In 90 Seconds or Less. Through careful observation, I have seen them utilizing the principles that (I imagine) are addressed in the book. I'm going to start applying these in my own life.

Principle #1: Be Suave. When possible, use lines that would sound right from characters in a movie. If you are at a gala or black tie affair, you could lean back against the bar and say something like, "So, do you feel really young at these things?" The person you're speaking to will feel taken aback by such a brazen question and when they look at you in a surprised manner, respond with, "I mean, I'm young too, so I know I do." This act of confidence is disarming and the person you are speaking with will likely open up as well.

Principle #2: Make the Other Person Feel Important and Interesting. Ask the other person about what they do (even down to their day-to-day duties if time permits), what their career path looks like and basically any other questions that demonstrate your great interest in his/her life, he/she being the most interesting person you have ever spoken to. Even if this is not the case, try your best to make it seem so.

If the person you are speaking to interrupts to ask questions about you, do not deflect. Answer their questions as succinctly as possible, but quickly turn the focus of the conversation back on them. An example of how to do this would be to say, "I like Pepsi and Coke, but mostly Pepsi. I just think it tastes better. What about you? Are you more of a Pepsi person or a Coke fan?" Everyone has something to say on this topic, so this should feed your conversation for at least another 5 minutes or so.

Principle #3: Body Language is Everything. Turn to face the person you're speaking to, even if he/she is not turned all the way to face you. If they look like they're about to cut the conversation short or run away from you, quickly lasso them back into the conversation. (see principle #2). Maintain an open, welcoming posture.

Principle #4: Enumerate the Items You are Speaking About. If it feels appropriate, count them off on your fingers. You will seem more organized and well prepared. Also, if you feel timid speaking in public, the act of counting on your fingers gives you something else to focus on besides the dozen or so eyes staring at you. An example, "OK, so we're all here to get dinner ready by 6pm. We have to do some things first before we get started. 1) clear the table. 2) set the table. 3) put the salad together. 4) finish the roast."

Principle #5: Be the Interesting Person You Yourself Would Want to Talk to. I am still observing people practicing this principle, so I am unclear as to how to do this without seeming pompous and will keep you posted. In the meantime, you should make yourself out to be interesting. Talk about the annual trip you take to Zimbabwe to help the orphans or how you teach ballroom dancing in your free time. It would be particularly impressive if you could slip in your age (if under 40) and how you are already retired and split your time between living in the south of France and New York. If you don't do these things, or things like it, consider picking one up as a new hobby. I myself am getting certified to ride the dolphins at Marine World.

With this said, do keep in mind that I am no communications expert and if after utilizing these principles you are still as lonely and unliked as when you started, I apologize. Perhaps we can be friends.

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