Would you like to not-get-on well with everyone? I thought not. We’d all like to get on well with other people, even if we don’t think it’s possible. Actually, most of us have lots of reasons we wouldn’t try to get on well with everyone: we imagine we wouldn’t like some people or even that they would not like us.
It’s a bit like the common fear of what other people may thinking about us. However, the odd truth is they are not usually thinking about us at all. They’re usually wondering what we’re thinking about them. Imagine the conversation, each wondering what the other is thinking about them, neither thinking about the other. A bit mad really.
So here’s the first tip. Forget yourself: be interested in the other person. Most people aren’t so interested in other people, partly for the reason mentioned above, so you will stand out a mile. People are amazing. I realise that many people are deeply confused, but that’s also amazing when you think about it.
Next: be aware of your intention in connecting with someone. What is it? Some of us want to get other people to like us; it’s tiring! What if your purpose was simply to cause them to feel better about themselves, this day, this life: would that be cool?
Third: Ask them real questions. They’ll usually brush aside the first question or two with a conventional answer. But if you gently persist you might have a real conversation. If you’ show real interest, they’ll start to show a bit more of themselves. They’ll open up, even a little.
Fourth: give their views time and space. In time you may gently explore their answers where it feels appropriate. In the middle of a conversation I may be very present while my unconscious is asking questions like: Why is she saying that, what is that about, where is that coming from? But I can just listen for a bit.
Fifth: honour the moment. Practice this stuff until it becomes habitual and you become really good at it. I aim to treat each conversation, with a client or colleague, a shop assistant or ticket inspector, a friend or friend-to-be, as significant, as tho’ this is life unfolding, which of course it is.
Tho I was a nervous teenager, these days I feel able to start a conversation with anyone. More than that, I look forward to each connection. It turns out people are fun. They may not feel it yet, but they are.
A lot of people principles remain well described in Dale Carnegie’s timeless American classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. Most people worry other people aren’t really interested in them. By being interested in people you can change the world one conversation at a time.
Categories: Living and Leading