Learn practical techniques to overcome social discomfort and make new connections with confidence! Discover the secret to getting people to want to talk to you, and explore three parts of Lowndes’s approach:
- Nonverbal cues to make a good first impression,
- Verbal cues to establish rapport right away, and
- Nonverbal cues to promote meaningful talks and establish trust.
Introduction: People Need to Know You Like Them
Lowndes suggests that the key to approaching and talking to anyone is making them feel liked. This is because everyone wants to feel appreciated and good about themselves. When people are unsure if you like them, they feel uncomfortable and struggle to engage with you.
Conversely, when they feel at ease around you, they enjoy your company and like you. However, many people struggle with this because of discomfort and a fear of rejection, which can lead to unconsciously emitting negative signals that push people away.
Lowndes proposes a straightforward way to combat discomfort and signal your openness to those you wish to converse with: shift your attention from your own feelings to theirs. This means being aware of the nonverbal and verbal cues you’re giving off, which we’ll cover in the rest of the guide.
Part 1: Nonverbal Signals-Make a Positive First Impression
To excel at conversing with anyone, paying attention to your body language and nonverbal signals is crucial. Lowndes emphasizes their importance because they form over 80% of people’s initial impressions of you and affect their reactions.
In this guide’s first part, we’ll explore how body language impacts people’s perceptions of you and provide nonverbal techniques to help you appear more approachable and appealing.
Your Body Language Communicates Everything About You
Lowndes asserts that people instinctively form opinions about others within the first few seconds of seeing them. Even before speaking, assumptions are made about their personality, emotions, confidence, and social/professional status, influencing the desire to spend time with them.
Similarly, people form opinions about you upon seeing you, with body language being the basis for these judgments. Your posture, comfort level, smile, and eye contact all emit signals about your emotions, whether consciously or unconsciously.
How to Appear Approachable and Likable
Lowndes contends that in Western society, people are adept at distinguishing between nonverbal signals of liking and rejection. Given that people are drawn to those who like them, being mindful of the signals you emit can increase approachability by conveying positive sentiments. Lowndes provides five techniques to decode this nonverbal language and create a favorable impression.
Technique #1: Stand Tall
Lowndes suggests that poor posture can be interpreted as unwelcoming, while good posture can be seen as a welcoming signal. Slumping may imply insecurity or shame, while standing tall and confident can make others see you as accomplished and worthy of their attention.
Technique #2: Relax and Remove Physical Barriers
Lowndes suggests that fidgeting and guarded movements can make you appear insincere and suspicious, while a relaxed and open stance signals honesty and approachability. Keeping your arms loosely by your sides with your palms facing upwards and turning your body towards people you want to talk to can show them that they have your full attention and make them feel at ease.
Technique #3: Delay Your Smiles and Maintain Eye Contact
Lowndes suggests that quick, instinctive smiles come off as impersonal, leading to a distant response. Additionally, lack of eye contact makes it difficult for people to connect with you emotionally. Instead, to create a warm response, pause briefly and make eye contact before flashing a big, warm smile. Maintaining comfortable eye contact during conversation will signal your interest in what they have to say.
Technique #4: Pretend You’re Already Close Friends
Lowndes suggests a technique to send positive signals through your body language: Pretend you are already friends with the person you want to talk to. By doing so, you can remove the uncertainty of how they will respond to you and automatically feel more relaxed and comfortable. According to Lowndes, this pretending eventually leads to genuine affection as you send signals that put the other person at ease, encouraging them to like you and respond warmly. This creates a comfortable and enjoyable interaction.
Technique #5: Hold Their Gaze to Encourage Attraction
Lowndes advises that holding someone’s gaze for an extended period can increase the chances of a positive response from them as it makes them feel captivated. This can trigger a biological response similar to falling in love, increasing their heartbeat and adrenaline.
However, it should be used with caution as it may come across as arrogance if the other person is not attracted to you. To maintain attraction, continue eye contact, and only look away slowly and reluctantly. But, it’s important to avoid too much intensity as it may give off a negative impression.
Tune Into Their Body Language
We’ve covered how to use your body language to signal positive and welcoming messages to those you want to engage with. However, it’s also important to take initiative and approach others. With knowledge of nonverbal cues, you have an advantage in social situations.
You can identify who is approachable by their relaxed and open stance, and who is not by their guarded and fidgety behavior. Additionally, you can interpret how people feel about you during interactions by their level of engagement or avoidance, such as turning towards or away from you, or maintaining or avoiding eye contact.
Lowndes offers three ways to influence unapproachable or inattentive people to respond positively to you:
- Approach them anyway using the techniques discussed above and maintain a little distance to keep them at ease.
- Mirror their movements while maintaining an open posture and eye contact to show similarity in nature and put them at ease.
- Experiment with changing your tone or topic of conversation to trigger their interest and put them at ease, which will be reflected in their body language.
Part 2: Verbal Signals-Create Instant Rapport
To make your conversations more enjoyable, it’s essential to use the right verbal signals. Lowndes recommends four techniques to put your conversation partners at ease and make them feel liked.
Technique #1: Use and Take Notice of Visual Gimmicks
Lowndes recommends using something unique or interesting, such as a piece of jewelry or a colorful shirt, as a conversation starter. This will give others an excuse to approach you and give you something to discuss. It’s also helpful to pay attention to what others are wearing or carrying, so you can start a conversation by complimenting them and showing your interest in them.
Technique #2: Ask for Introductions
Lowndes recommends using mutual acquaintances to make introductions as an effective way to approach new people. Before the introduction, ask for some details about the person’s hobbies or interests to show your interest and start a conversation.
Get information from your contacts to identify a mutual interest as an icebreaker if they are too busy to introduce you. Then you can easily approach someone new by saying something like, “Hey, I was just talking to … and she told me that you …”
Technique #3: Prepare Stimulating Responses to Common Questions
Lowndes advises against giving simple fact-based responses to common questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” as it may not lead to engaging conversations. Instead, she suggests adding interesting facts, jokes, or observations to your responses that will stimulate a response from your conversation partner.
The type of response you give should depend on the social context and the person you’re talking to. For example, for casual conversations, keep your responses fun and general, while for networking purposes, highlight your work and relevant interests.
Technique #4: Research Interesting Things to Say in Advance
Lowndes provides four ways to prepare for interesting conversations:
- Know who will be there before accepting an invitation, so you can anticipate the topics of conversation.
- Keep up with the news to have common topics to discuss.
- Try new activities to broaden your interests and ability to connect with people.
- Expand your vocabulary by finding words that reflect your personality and make you sound more interesting.
Part 3: Verbal Signals-Encourage Meaningful Conversations
Lowndes suggests that building an emotional connection is key to moving beyond superficial conversations. An emotional connection is when people trust each other enough to reveal more about themselves, which can lead to more meaningful conversations.
Lowndes proposes four techniques to develop trust and establish an emotional connection.
Technique #1: Make Your Interest in Them Clear
Lowndes recommends two techniques to build trust and develop an emotional connection with your conversation partner. First, ask them questions about their interests and give them space to talk about themselves. Then, relate your own interests to theirs to show your genuine interest. Second, remember details about the person for future conversations, as it demonstrates that you’ve been paying attention to them and care enough to remember little details.
Technique #2: Present a Positive Image of Yourself
Lowndes suggests being cautious about revealing your flaws because it can have different effects depending on your status.
Technique #3: Maintain a Positive Image of Them
To make others feel comfortable and accepted, focus only on their positive qualities and avoid making jokes at their expense or pointing out their faults. This approach, according to Lowndes, shows that you appreciate and value them for who they are.
To build a deeper connection, focus on their positive qualities and avoid criticizing or joking at their expense. Compliment them sincerely by acknowledging their interests and qualities, which will make them feel valued and encourage them to open up further. For instance, you can say, “Your children are lucky to have you” when discussing parenthood with someone.
Technique #4: Foster Empathy Through Mirroring Techniques
According to Lowndes, people are more likely to reveal the truth about themselves to those who share similar traits, interests, and values. To encourage people to see you as similar to them, Lowndes recommends four tactics.
- First, match their mood and tone to show empathy.
- Second, echo their specific words to show shared values.
- Third, use short empathetic statements that match their senses to show understanding.
- Finally, use “we,” “us,” and “our” to imply friendship and create a feeling of connection and intimacy.
Studies show that using “we” and “us” can make you feel happier and calmer and help you express positive emotions.