We all learn to interact, connect, and build relationships from a very young age. As we get older, we begin to better understand the importance of building the right connections both in our lives and in our professional environment.
This is where we begin to invest time into our relationships and friendships to form long-lasting bonds with a bunch of people whom will eventually become our inner circle or regular hang-out buddies.
Over time, we also learn to develop social filters that helps us quicken the process of deciding who we should connect with and how much time we should invest in those new connections. While this is a natural process, it does have its pitfalls.
We may soon discover that we are unable to connect with new people easily because of our tendency to decide if they are interesting, relevant, or worth our time upon meeting them.
As an adult, we all have had occasions when we struggled to connect with someone we have just met for the first time (or a few times in passing)- be it in a social event or a professional networking setting.
During these times, we may find ourselves bogged down by shyness, self-consciousness, cynicism, pride, competitiveness, arrogance, and perhaps even awkwardness. We may even think that we are lousy at making friends because it is something that you are generally not good or do too often.
However, fret not! We are never too old to make friends. According to sociologist, Jan Yager, author of Friendshifts: The Power of Friendship and How It Shapes Our Lives we need to get it out of our heads that it harder to make friends as we get older. In fact, it is much easier because we are more comfortable in our own skins!
Here’s 5 tips to help you connect with anyone you meet, easily!
Be Genuine – Let Your Real-Self Shine Through
Whenever we meet someone new, our first few conversations with them are generally circle around “safe” topics- superficial topics like the traffic, new food places, mutual friends, general tidbits about yourself, or politics (if you’re Malaysian most likely food and politics!).
However to really connect with someone, you have to show that you are genuinely interested in them and be willing to share a bit more about the real you. Sharing about yourself does not have to be too personal, it could be a social cause that you are passionate about, or a favourite restaurant that you recently recommended to a close friend.
By opening up, you are also encouraging the other person to follow suit- and most of the time, if you open up, the other person will follow your lead and do the same.
Ask Good Questions
During conversation, try non-personal questions that helps you understand the other person a bit better. One of the easiest way to get started is to ask them how they spend their spare time or what they like which encourages them to share a bit more about themselves.
If you need some ideas, Lifehack’s list of questions may be a good one to start.
Remember Their Names and Use It Often
It is always pleasant when someone addresses you by name and remembers it when they greet you the next time because it would make you feel that you are important enough to be remembered.
Similarly, when you remember someone’s name and use it when addressing them during a conversation would make them feel like they matter. It also increases the potential possibility of developing a more meaningful relationship with this person in future.
Listen, And Remember It Is Not Always About You
Most of us fall into this trap where we treat conversation like a competitive sport, where the person who says the most, makes the cleverest point, persuades others of an opinion, or even speaks the longest and loudest is the winner. Doing that you are keeping the focus on yourself and not on the other person.
Remember you are trying to find a common ground with the person and in every single thing every person says, they reveal what they value. So when you really listen to what they say, you may be able to recognize that they are saying what they’re saying because it is important to them.
Don’t Forget To Keep Your Inner Voice Quiet
One of our biggest hurdles when connecting with people is the fact that we are not actually listening. This happens when we are so focused on what we’re going to say next, driving us to respond before they are finished or to develop a fixed opinion/answer ready to be fired off as soon as there’s a break in the dialogue.
This will hamper us to fully hear and comprehend what is really being said. So turn off that inner voice if you want to build a deeper connection with people.
It’s ok if you forget what you were going to say or if the conversation takes a different turn as ultimately, you would want to focus on what they are actually telling you.
Try these tips the next time you meet someone new, you may suddenly find them to be ten times more interesting. Better yet, you may even witness that wonderful sense of gratitude that washes over people when someone makes a genuine effort to understand and connect with them.