Over the years, through intense study and an innate fascination with people and social dynamics, I’ve noticed that the world’s best connectors do things in a pretty similar way. We all know the people who meet people with ease, seem to always have the influencers in their corner and are constantly surrounded by passionate and inspiring people.
Whether they know it or not, they all follow a set of habits. Let these habits serve as guidance for how to approach the people around you. For me, they are a way of life. Without them, you’re nowhere. With them, anything’s possible.
This is by far the fastest way in the world to create a connection. It’s also a powerful show of confidence, which people respect and are drawn to. Smiles are contagious and the simple act makes people feel better. Also “research has shown that a person receives more help when smiling.” (Source: Psych Central; Smiling Increases Good Samaritan Behavior) Whether you approach a close friend, a bus driver, someone you’re dying to meet or just walking into a room of strangers, there is no stronger opener.
See friends, not strangers.
When you walk into a room see the new faces, not as strangers, but as friends you have yet to meet. Essentially, you will have to change your person perception: “the mental processes that we use to form impressions of other people. This includes not just how we form these impressions, but the different conclusions we make about other people based upon our impressions.” (Source: About.com Psychology) You see the world in a more similar way to others than you probably realize — especially if you’re at the same event or a part of the same communities. Approach accordingly.
This is the foundation. Making genuine connections is nothing more than making friends. When you’re about to approach someone, ask, “How would I treat this person if they were my close friend or someone I’d want to be a close friend?” You put friends first. You listen to them. You hear their problems so you can help in any way you can. Act accordingly.
If you’re connecting just because you want to get yourself further up the ladder, then you’ve already lost. There is only one type of connection — one you genuinely care about. Find someone you actually do care to meet and get to know. Anything else is a waste of time.
Meeting people is about making their lives better. Whether that’s by giving them a smile, a new contact or anything in between — there is a way to help everyone. Give like crazy, embrace generosity and make others more successful.
The easiest way to be interesting is to be interested. Find excitement in what you can learn from others. Hear what they say. Listen and learn about what matters to them — not so you can say something back as soon as possible, but so you can get a window into their world. People want to tell their story. Be the person that is excited to hear it.
Make people a priority.
There is no more important task for anyone than surrounding yourself with the right people. It’s part of every day, not something we do for an hour every week or two. It’s a way of being and a way of life.
Be open to conversation.
Embrace conversation with those around you. Everyone has something to offer — your server or the guy next to you on a park bench or plane flight. Even if you came to read a book, realize the best part of your day might be learning about the world of the person next to you.
Know your passions, goals, talents, interests and the impact you want to have on the world. These will serve as your guiding light for how you can help and who you actually want to write into your story. Act with intention.
Be uniquely you.
Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to look and sound like someone else, and don’t hold back! Be vulnerable and open. Share your real story and goals. Tell others about your spouse, kids and parenting struggles. Talking about the weather does not build connection. Being real does.
Remember that every maverick has a home team offering advice and encouragement. Every game-changer has an inner circle of support. Yours is waiting.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Scott Dinsmore is an entrepreneur, career change strategist, travel photographer, ultra-runner and founder of Live Your Legend, a business and international community dedicated to helping you build a career around work that genuinely excites you – and surround yourself with the people who make it possible. A version of this post originally appeared on the author’s blog.
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