There are some people in life who seem to have been blessed with the innate ability to charm. But if smooth-talking doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t despair. Psychologists have determined that these simple tricks can help you connect with people fast — and some of these tactics are quite unexpected.
20. Mirror their body language
In a conversation, when one person mirrors the other’s body language, it’s a sign that the pair have established a rapport. With that in mind, if you want to improve your likability, it might be a good idea to study people’s reactions and replicate them. That means, copying their facial expressions and keeping constant eye contact.
Mimicking non-verbal behaviors in such a way — as long as it’s relatively subtle — shows that you are engrossed in what the other party has to say. And if you really want to test the bond, you could try changing your own position to see how the other person responds. If they mirror your body language, it’s a good sign that you’ve established a relationship.
19. Show a little vulnerability
Charming people doesn’t necessarily mean having to impress them all the time. In fact, being unafraid to reveal your weaknesses and vulnerabilities is often a sign of confidence in itself. Not only that, but it shows that you’re genuine and sincere, and it effectively endears you to other individuals.
So, the next time you feel a conversation becoming more competitive, instead of blowing your own trumpet louder than the other person, consider conceding. For example, if the person you’re talking to starts to brag about their achievements or wealth, instead of responding with your own accolades, tell them how impressive they are, maybe even ask them for advice.
18. Don’t take yourself too seriously
The most likable people are those who are willing to admit their mistakes. Better still they are perfectly happy to recycle their faux pas and offer them out as anecdotes as a form of advice. Fostering this kind of openness makes you appear more genuine and can help to earn the respect of your peers.
What’s more, charming people aren’t afraid to act the clown every now and then. It could be as extreme as donning a silly outfit for a work event or as simple as being able to laugh off your own foibles. You might think that owning up to mistakes would lose you the respect of others, but it actually tends to win it.
17. A winning smile
Science shows that we make sweeping judgments on a person’s character based on their looks alone. Alexander Todorov is a psychology professor at University of Chicago Booth School of Business — and formerly of Princeton. According to his research, we come to conclusions on an individual’s competence, trustworthiness and likability within a tenth of a second of seeing their face.
So with the clock against us, what’s the best way of making a good first impression? Well, according to Todorov, the answer is as simple as a smile. In an interview with the BBC’s Worklife website in 2017, the professor explained, “People will perceive a smiling face as more trustworthy, warmer and sociable.”
16. Get to know them — fast
There’s some evidence to show that the sooner people answer personal questions about themselves, the quicker a relationship can progress. Psychologist Jack Schafer is a former FBI special agent turned likability coach. And he told Worklife, “If I’m selling something, the more quickly I develop rapport and get you to say all sorts of intimate details about your life, the faster you will treat me as a friend and the faster I can get to my sell.”
And getting folk to open up to you in a short time is perhaps not as hard as you might think. Making presumptive statements is a great way to encourage people to share the details of their life. For instance, if you ask someone, “You must be around 30 years old?” they tend to respond by either confirming your hunch or by offering a correction.
15. Remember the key details
Likable people are often the type who never forget a name. After all, there’s nothing more disheartening than realizing a person you thought you’d established a relationship with can’t remember what you’re called. When they do, they make us feel better about ourselves — because we’re important enough to be memorable.
So it goes without saying that charming people commit names to memory. But if you really want to make an impact on someone, try to remember as much as you can about that person. That way, the next time you meet, there’s a degree of familiarity that will make the other person feel good.
14. Aim to impress
First impressions are important — they’re how a person initially perceives us, after all — but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be overcome. If your first meeting with didn’t go to plan, you can help to rectify the situation by winning the person over later in the conversation. But you’ll need to somehow impress them first.
As psychologist Alexander Todorov told Worklife, the best plan of action is to put your best foot forward. He explained, “The good news is that we can very quickly override our first impression made based on appearance. If you have the opportunity to meet someone, the moment you have good information about them, you will change the way you perceive them.” You can use any information you manage to learn about them in order to provide a positive impression of yourself.
13. Warmth is key
Susan Fiske is the social psychologist behind “the stereotype content model” — a theory that suggests we judge others on their competence and warmth. According to this approach, by coming across as friendly and noncompetitive, people are more likely to trust you. Moreover, by demonstrating your competence, you can earn the respect of others.
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy has seemingly built on Fiske’s ideas. She suggests that demonstrating warmth before competence is key, particularly in business settings. In her book Presence Cuddy explains, “From an evolutionary perspective it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”
12. Be agreeable
Charming people tend to strive for agreement rather than conflict. So while our first instinct might be to challenge opposing ideas — or simply play devil’s advocate — in discussions this could damage our likability. Looking for points of difference rather than similarities can also lead to arguments.
So when someone offers an opinion you don’t necessarily agree with, think before jumping in with an opposing view. Instead of looking for points of disagreement, seek out something you agree on. After that, you can attempt to put your ideas forward in a gentle way, without causing too many waves in the conversation.
11. Show interest in the other person
If you want to be liked, when it comes to conversation, try to make the interaction more about the other party. To do this, don’t talk too much about yourself. Instead, show genuine interest in what your companion has to say. That way, you can get an insight into their world by learning all that you can about them.
As psychologist Jack Schafer told Worklife, “The golden rule of friendship is if you make people feel good about themselves, they’re going to like you.” Author Olivia Fox Cabane, who wrote the book The Charisma Myth, agrees. She said, “Imagine the other person is a character in an indie flick. Those characters become more fascinating the more you learn about them…”
10. Three simple signals
Psychologists have observed three important signals that we make when approaching another person which tell them that we’re nonthreatening. These signs are so subtle that we perhaps don’t even notice that we’re doing them. Even so, they’re instrumental in telling others that we are friends and not foes.
Schafer told Worklife, “Our brains are always surveying the environment for friend or foe signals. The three major things we do when we approach somebody that signals we’re not going to present a threat are: an eyebrow flash — a quick up and down movement of the eyebrow that lasts about a sixth of a second — a slight head tilt, and a smile.”
9. See the other person how they want to be seen
It perhaps goes without saying that people want others to view them in the same way that they see themselves. This phenomenon is what psychologists refer to as “self-verification theory.” It states that all of us want to have our view of ourselves confirmed, whether it is negative or positive.
Studies at the University of Arizona and Stanford University found that people with positive perceptions of themselves wanted to interact with others who thought highly of them. Those with a negative view of themselves, meanwhile, preferred being around critics. This could show that we want to interact with people who provide us with feedback that matches our own self identity.
8. Tell them a secret
For the most part, it seems natural to enter an interaction with other people through small talk. But if you want to establish a bond with another person, the sooner you start exchanging intimate details, it seems, the better. And there’s some evidence to suggest that one of the best ways to build a relationship is through self-disclosure.
In a study undertaken at Stony Brook University in New York, students were put into pairs and given 45 minutes to get to know one another. Some participants were given a list of questions to ask, which were increasingly personal. Others, meanwhile, had more light-hearted lines of conversation. It was found that the students which asked more intimate questions finished the experiment feeling closer to their partners than the ones who’d stuck to small talk.
7. Expect the best from people
It seems that our expectations of people may actually have a bearing on how they react to us. In what’s known as “the Pygmalion effect,” we treat others based on assumptions that we’ve made about them. And, in turn, they then behave in a manner which corresponds to these beliefs, confirming our ideas about a person.
In an interview for Harvard Magazine in 2010, Amy Cuddy explained, “If you think someone’s a jerk, you’ll behave toward them in a way that elicits jerky behaviors.” By way of contrast, if you expect someone to be amicable, they are more likely to react to you in a friendly way.
6. Common ground
The most charming people are able to find common ground with someone even when there’s much they disagree on. The points of similarity don’t have to be significant. You could draw on shared interests or commonalities. For instance, perhaps you’re both from California, or maybe you both like to keep an eye on current affairs or relevant industry news.
Seattle University’s Suzanne de Janasz is an affiliated professor of management. And she told Worklife, “When you disagree, try to really listen to the other person rather than setting up your response, which research shows smart people tend to do. It might seem like you totally disagree but on closer examination you might agree on a few things, at least in principle.”
5. Don’t overwhelm people with compliments
According to the gain-loss theory, which looks at interpersonal attraction, our compliments are more effective if we offer them sporadically. An experiment at the University of Minnesota in 1965 put this idea to the test. Researchers paired off 80 female students and allowed one half to “overhear” what their partners had to say about them.
In reality, the opinions were scripted. They followed four scenarios. In one, all the comments were negative, in another they were entirely positive. There was also another in which opinions went from positive to negative, and one more from negative to positive. Ultimately, it was determined that participants like their partners most when their commentary went from bad to good. This suggests we like to feel like we’ve won other people over.
4. Drip feed information
If you’re hoping your new relationship will go the distance, try not to overwhelm the other person with information. Instead of laying all our cards on the table, it’s best to drip feed people with details about yourself. Revealing too much too soon, could put the other person off, or leave them feeling like there’s nothing else to learn.
With this in mind, Jack Schafer recommends implementing what he calls the “Hansel and Gretel technique.” Revealing information bit by bit, like a trail of breadcrumbs, turns every detail into a “curiosity hook.” As Schafer explained to Worklife, “You gradually release information about yourself to keep the relationship alive.”
3. Make friends with their friends
According to the theory of triadic closure, two individuals are likely to form a closer bond if they have a friend in common. This idea was put to test by the University of British Columbia in an experiment in which they added friends at random on Facebook. And the results were very revealing indeed.
The results of the study found that people were much more likely to accept a friend request if they had contacts in common. And the likelihood of a successful connection only increased with the number of mutual friends. That’s because only 20 percent of requests with no common contacts were accepted. But this number leapt to almost 80 percent with over 11 mutual connections.
2. Make people feel good about themselves
Giving other people a boost to their self-esteem can be an effective way to make an impression. And surprisingly, it can work just as well on strangers as it does on established acquaintances. For instance, if you notice a person looks happy with themselves, you could point out that they seem to be in a good mood. This gives them a chance to share their positivity, therefore lifting them even further.
The more you know about a person, the more powerful this approach can be. As Jack Schafer told Worklife, “Instead of direct flattery, you want to allow people to flatter themselves. Once I find out your age I can say something like, ‘You’re in your 30s and write for the BBC? Not many people can do that so young.’ Now you’re giving yourself a psychological pat on the back.”
1. Fake it until you make it
What these psychological tricks all go to show is that you don’t have to be born with charm to win people over. It’s possible to train yourself to be more charismatic, something that likability coach Schafer knows all too well. According to the former FBI agent, armed with the right techniques, even the most introverted of individuals can convince others into thinking they’re a people person.
As an example of this, Schafer points to the former host of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson. He explained, “Carson was an extreme introvert who trained himself to be an extrovert. As soon as the show was over he curled up and went home, but on TV he was famous for smiling and laughing and making jokes.”