Everyone has that friend.
You know, the friend you take to a party, social gathering, or heck, even a family gathering. He doesn’t know anyone, but you’re there five minutes and he’s already made friends with half the room.
People with this skill are often labeled as having “the gift of gab”, or being a “real talker”, “social butterly”, or most likely, the life of the party. In reality, the skill these people have is the ability to connect quickly with others. They make people feel comfortable enough with them that they lower their walls and want to be friends.
Whether you’re in sales, own or run a business where you need to attract clients, or are a member of your children’s parent/teacher association, these are skills that will make you more effective in many different endeavors.
Here are five tips to getting anyone’s attention and forming instant connections with people:
1. Make eye contact
While it’s tough to find who the original orator of the saying was, several have written “the eyes are the window of the soul.” In The Bible, Matthew 6:22 says “The eye is the lamp of the body. You draw light into your body through your eyes, and light shines out to the world through your eyes.” Regardless, making extremely strong eye contact makes it almost impossible for someone to ignore you. Also, studies show people who hold stronger eye contact are perceived to be more trustworthy.
Nothing lowers someone’s walls faster than a smile. We’ve all met that person that was stone cold and standoffish, and no one felt comfortable around him or her. One of the quickest ways to lower that wall, and to show others that your walls are completely down, is to give them a big, genuine smile.
3. Introduce Yourself
Some people just aren’t good at breaking the ice. Furthermore, no one wants to be that person that breaks the ice by talking about the weather, or something meaningless around them, just for the sake of having something to say. In my experience, there’s no better way to break the ice than to stick out my hand and say, “Hi, I haven’t met you yet. I’m Bret.”
4. Remember their name
In his famous book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says a person’s name is the most important word to them in the whole world. He’s right. Want to stand out above the crowd? Remember someone’s name, and you’ve already separated yourself from the masses. Want to get better at remembering people’s names? When that person tells you his or her name, say it to yourself five times immediately. I guarantee you’ll get a lot better.
5. Ask relevant, non-threatening questions
In the old-school world of leadership, the person who had all the answers owned the room. In many cases, he also owned the business. However, in today’s world people can find answers anywhere, especially on the internet. So a much more impactful way of connecting with someone is to ask them 3-4 relevant, non-threatening questions about them, their life, their family, or even their business. At the end of the day, it comes back to the old saying, “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Taking an interest in others shows them you care.
6. Keep it casual
I’m a welcoming, very accessible person, both in person and in the online world. So when someone sends me a friend request on LinkedIn, I almost always accept them. About three times a day, the minute I accept a friend request, I receive a personal message within ten minutes trying to pitch me on something.
To me, this is a big turnoff. They’re not trying to bring me any value. They’re just trying to take.
Get to know people, and find out what’s important to them. You will naturally be able to figure out how you can help or add value to them. Over time, you will build a relationship where you earn the right to ask them for business.
Build relationships for the long haul. Don’t be that guy looking to pounce at the first opportunity that a new contact might be able to offer you.
While not everyone has that magnetic personality to instantly be the most popular person in a room, everyone does have the potential to socialize, and to learn how to connect with others quickly. So get out and practice these skills, become interested in others, and grow your relationships, business, and life!
Bret Barrie was a Hall-of-Fame and Presidents’ Club-winning sales rep and is a top-producing sales leader in the medical device industry. He is also the author of The Selling Edge: How to Reach the Top in any Sales Industry. A baseball enthusiast and fitness junkie, he is happily married with three children and lives in the greater Sacramento area. For more information, visit bretbarrie.com.