When I was six or seven years old, I had a ton of "best friends." Seriously, probably like dozens of them. You might have even been one.
I was so popular among my peers because I had the perfect strategy for building my network quickly. I'd simply walk to up to a kid whom I thought looked cool, and I'd say, "Hey, my name's Jay. Wanna be best friends?" You'd be shocked at the acceptance rate I had for this invitation. Like everybody said yes. I dunno, I guess everyone wanted to be best friends with me. For some reason, I don't talk to them much anymore, but whatever.
Now that I've grown up, the effectiveness of that strategy has, shockingly, dwindled. It can be easy to feel a bit lost when considering how to connect with new people. We're left stumbling through a gauntlet of awkwardness and unspoken, yet socially accepted, social rules for how we should act upon meeting someone for the first time. We come to the question:
How do we effectively connect with other people when meeting them for the first time? How does a person become relatable, likable and how can we become quick friends with strangers?
Whether you want to meet new friends at a party, you want to build your professional network at an industry event, or even start a new romantic relationship with that special someone, the strategies remain the same. Below are a few tips that I hope could help you.
There's an important, overarching theme to this topic: the goal is to personally cultivate a genuine care and interest in the other person, and for them to experience that in a real way. That is a true connection.
1. For goodness sake, stop talking about yourself so much.
This is step one. Seriously, there's nothing more unattractive than a person who can't seem to make it through a conversation without turning it towards themselves. Be others-focused. It'll set you apart.
2. Decide you're going to become quick friends.
Change your mindset. Here's the voodoo mind trick: tell yourself, "This person and I are going to be friends, so I'm going to treat them like a friend from the second I first meet them." Then, proceed to interact with them as though you've been friends for years. I know, it might feel weird at first, but this technique makes you more confident in your interaction, and it can also create a higher level of genuine interest and affection for the other person. I'm not much of a "feel the energy" type of guy, but seriously, it works.
When you become more comfortable around them, often, they will become more comfortable around you. And even when you know absolutely nothing about the other person, in reality, humans aren't really all that different in what we need: we all desire to be loved, appreciated and valued. You know that about them, and that's all you really need to know.
3. Ask quality questions. Then listen.
Forget the stale, hum-drum questions about what they do for a living and where they're from. There's better options out there. Ask the other person what they're currently excited about. Or their opinion on a current issue or topic. Just ask them a question that will (likely) produce a conversation-starting answer.
Now, do you want the secret to being known as the most relatable, charismatic, nicest person around? Here it is: actually listen when they answer the question. That's it. Actually care enough to listen to what they've said instead of planning what you'll say next. Then ask a follow up question based on their answer. Then another. Cultivate within yourself authentic curiosity in what they're saying and what you're learning about them in that moment.
One last secret! This is actually an interview technique the pros on television use: when somebody gives an answer to your question, piggyback off the last word they said, and use it to start your next sentence. Literally, repeat the last word they just said and use it to form your next sentence (Them: "Yeah my favorite sport to watch is football." You: "Oh, football is my favorite too. What's your favorite football team?") It might feel awkward or forced at first, but it's a pro tip to make sure you're present in the conversation and really paying attention to them.
4. Genuinely compliment them.
Try and tell me you dislike that guy who just complimented your shirt. It's impossible. It helps if you're unique and specific, but don't overthink it. Simply find something that you genuinely like about them, and use it as a quick icebreaker. You'd be surprised how easily a thoughtful compliment can open doors to a natural conversation.
Just as an FYI, don't go overboard with this technique. One compliment = friendly and relatable. Two compliments = trying too hard and overdoing it. Three compliments = creeper/weirdo/stalker.
5. Be a super-connector.
Be the person who is always introducing people to each other. When doing this, you make yourself more valuable to both parties, you grow your group of connections, and you increase the likelihood that they'll want to introduce you to somebody else. Essentially you become as socially valuable as the person you're introducing to others. Become a super connector!