#1. Eye contact.
“The eyes are the mirror of the soul.”
When you look someone in the eyes choose only one eye. It doesn’t matter left or right, just choose one. If you will be constantly switching from one eye to another your conversation partner will feel awkward and so will you. It is also very uncomfortable from a practical point of view.
An ability to look with friendliness straight into the eye speaks for itself — it communicates the pureness of your intentions and calm confidence.
The intensity of the gaze can also be controlled. It depends on how long you can look someone in the eye without blinking. You might have noticed that movie actors don’t blink during close-up scenes. They do it to keep the scene intense. When you blink, you break the channel of energy between you and the person you talk to. You “reset” the tension. Of course, also make sure that your gaze is not too intense. Friendly conversation is not a stare-down battle. Look confidently but softly.
Here is a simple exercise to train the strength of your gaze. Draw a black dot in the center of an A4 sheet of paper. Stick it to the wall above your desk and practice looking at the dot without blinking whenever you have a short break from work. You will not only learn how to control your blinking during the real conversation but also improve your visual concentration skills.
A smile is a universal language. It is a key to unlock any heart. Practice with the mirror to learn how to smile naturally but remember that what’s more important is to learn how to smile inside. A smile is not the movement of the facial muscles it is the movement of the soul. It is the attitude. If you do it right, your inner smile will shine through your eyes without a need in moving your lips.
#3. Discharge the awkwardness.
The easiest way to discharge the awkwardness is to admit it. If you feel awkward, especially at the first encounter, vocalize it. Say directly: “I am sorry. Is it just me or it is really awkward in here?” The tension in the atmosphere will instantly dissipate. Your conversation partner will feel relieved and grateful to you for dealing with the stress of the situation. The skill of making other people feel comfortable is the basis of personal charisma.
Your intent is the thoughts you play in the background in your head while you are talking. That’s your “inner game” — the mood that sets the tone of the conversation. The things you say are secondary to your intent. What really matters is the sub-communication projected from the inside. If your words are incongruent with your intentions the other person will sense it.
Here is one example of the sub-communication message: “I am your friend. I like you. I respect you. I think you are an interesting person. Everything you say is important for me.”
Again, this sub-communication message, or so-called meta-message, should not be in the form of completely worded thoughts. It’s an attitude.
Do not force it either. Don’t get absorbed in the thoughts about your intent. Listen actively. Otherwise, you will miss out on a phrase and your conversation partner will find you rude.
Be sincere about what you say. Project your poise and goodwill. A projection of your intent is worth a thousand words. All you have to do is to keep it under gentle control, relax, and go with the flow.
#5. Genuine interest.
“How are you?
No, really, how are you?”
~ Jim Carrey
All people have this notional mind-box where they keep a “card-file” of pre-prepared answers for frequently asked questions. Don’t settle for a generic response when you hear one. Peel off the layers of trivial mechanical feedback to get to the depth of another person’s soul. People will only reveal who they truly are when they fail to find a “card” with a pre-prepared reply. And when they open up be genuinely interested in what they have to say. That is how you make your interaction memorable.
#6. Go deep.
Small talk is worthless. There is no exchange of value during the small talk and you learn nothing from it.
Always opt for deep talk. Even if you think that this is the first and last time you see this person make sure he remembers you. Be uncanny, be enigmatic, ask unpredictable questions. Lead the dialogue so that your conversation partner would expose his personality not just provide you with factual information.
Instead of asking “What is your major?” ask “Was the choice of your major your own choice or someone made it for you?”
Instead of asking “What do your parents do?” ask “What would you tell your parents if you could go back in time when you were a kid?”
Instead of asking “What do you do for a living?” ask “What is your definition of success?”
Challenge your conversation partner. Be subtle but leave them no other choice but to engage in the conversation on a deeper level.
#7. Give space.
In a dialogue, two people can’t talk simultaneously. If two people tried to talk at the same time their conversation would become a mess. Obviously, the “conversation space” that exists between two people is finite. There is a room only for one speaker.
When you are the one who does the talking you fill in this space pushing your conversation partner outside of it. When you stop talking you empty the space inviting the other person to enter it and take his turn to speak.
Being able to vacate the room to speak remaining comfortable with silence is one of the most important skills in interpersonal communication. Mastering this skill does not only let you control the dynamics of the conversation by making the other person talk more, but also is useful for your personal growth. While talking you only repeat the things you already know. When you close your mouth and listen, that’s when you start learning something new.
#8. Make pauses.
Learn how to harness the power of pause as pauses can have a weight heavier than words when used appropriately.
Make a pause to make sure that the other person has finished speaking. Interrupting others is one of the highest forms of disrespect in conversation. Be courteous. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.
Make a pause before you start speaking. Taking a pause will help you to take your time, think and formulate your thoughts with the highest precision. But it also can be used deliberately to build up the anticipation of what you have to say adding gravity to your words.
Make pauses during your speech to emphasize important points. Pauses create tension. The tension holds attention. This trick is used by stand-up comedians, politicians and other kinds of public speakers to keep the audience hooked. Slow down. Shoot your words intending them to hit a bull’s eye. Say more by talking less.
#9. Be aware of body language.
Take an open stance. Choose the right position. Don’t cross your hands and legs, this sub-communicates that you are closed for alternative opinions even before your conversation partner started talking. The openness of the body translates into the openness of the mind and vice versa.
Get closer. Leaning back while talking to someone may be perceived as a lack of interest. When you lean forward entering the personal space of the other person you strengthen the projection of your intent and adding a flair of intimacy to your conversation. Finding an appropriate angle and position will help you to build trust much faster.
Touch. Being able to place soft touches on the body of the person you talk with is crucial in building a rapport. A touch is a form of physical expansion. By showing that it is not a big deal when you gently touch a person you sub-communicate your confidence non-verbally expressing that the interaction is under your control.
Examples of soft touches:
- Raise a hand to high-five when you and the other person find something in common. This is the most elementary, friendly, and a non-obtrusive way to land the first physical contact.
- Touch the hands of the person you talk to. Short smooth touches have a connotation of trust.
- A friendly touch on shoulders will not be considered a threat and can be used to comfort a person. It’s calming sub-communication that everything will be alright.
Slightly punch a person’s arm when one of you makes a joke. A light good-natured punch in a proper setting will be considered healthy, not frivolous.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. An ability to recognize the right moment and the adequate force of touch will come with practice. Don’t take physical contact seriously. Be light about it and you will never be considered creepy. In fact, what makes a touch creepy is the absence of assertiveness. It is the thought that you have no right to touch the body of the other person. It’s easy to identify a creep — he acts out of fear.
When you are playful about the touch, when you are able to confidently own it, it feels very natural to even touch people who you’ve just met.
#10. Be direct.
Here is one rule that opens many doors in both interpersonal communication and life:
If you do not ask the answer is always “No”.
Never shy away from opportunities. If you want to ask — ask. Get to the point fast and elaborate on details later. Someone who is daring and audacious yet modest and polite, someone who knows what he wants in life and has the balls to step up and ask will always have people’s respect.
#11. It is not about you.
Lastly, if there was only one secret of success in interpersonal communication it would be formulated as follows: a successful conversation is not about you.
People don’t want someone to talk to. They want to be heard. Be the one who is meeting this need for them and they will love you. It is as simple as that. Let people talk about themselves taking up 80% of the interaction time and they will end up thinking: “Oh my God! He is such an interesting person!”
Maximize open questions. Those are the ones that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”. Nudge people to develop their topic and unfold their arguments by questions like “how?” and “why?” Pay attention to the way people use “I” in their sentences. Listen carefully to what they say when they talk about themselves.
Many people are clueless about what it truly means to listen actively. Most of the time they are just waiting until you are done talking so that they could finally insert the line buzzing in their head. The effort they put into trying not to forget what they want to say is so intense as to seem almost palpable.
An ability to shut your mind from the thoughts about what to say next and redirecting every bit of your attention toward absorbing the words of your conversation partner — that’s what people call the skill of active listening. Invest time to learn it. Keep your ears sharp, be authentic, make sure that the talk is not about you and you will be winning people effortlessly.
Thank you for reading my book “Meditations of the Millennial”.
If you want to support me on my mission, please, share this book with someone you love. Maybe they will find what they seek on its pages.