Have you ever felt like social situations were something you just didn’t get? You followed all the rules. Give respect to get respect, make eye contact, smile, and you’re just a good person. So why aren’t you charming everybody you meet?
Maybe you’re not interesting enough.
But in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People he tells you it’s about being interested rather than being interesting.
But you are interested. You ask people questions and all you get are terse answers.
So what is it?
Dale Carnegie was right. The quality of your social interactions doesn’t reflect how interesting you are. You can live in your mom’s basement and still have awesome social interactions. You can also have traveled the world, speak 5 different languages fluently, jet ski on the weekends, and still have poor social interactions.
But he wasn’t completely right (as you might have already experienced). Being interested only charms if the other person is receptive to you. Imagine sitting on the subway on your way to work with some earbuds on, and the person sitting next to you starts asking you about your day.
The advice is nowhere fluid enough to work in every situation.
But that’s why it is only advice.
What about the golden rule?
“Treat others the way you would like to be treated.”
It’s a crappy rule. I’ll tell you why. You probably heard about the golden rule when you were just a kid. Probably no older than 7. Most people have.
You know why?
It’s because the golden rule is used to teach children the skill of empathy. They have trouble thinking of others outside of themselves, so we teach them the golden rule to help them realize the effects of their actions.
Following this rule as a guideline to charm is to shoot your social interactions in the foot.
It places too much emphasis on how you would like to be treated. It disregards the person sitting in front you’s individuality, and replaces it it with a cookie-cutter strategy that plain doesn’t work.
Not everybody will enjoy your eye contact and not everybody will appreciate your smiles. Sure. Put 10 people in a room and there’s a good chance 9 of them will. But you’re not out to charm 9/10 people in an imaginary room. You’re out to charm the person in front of you.
The earbud situation above is a great example. For all I know you might enjoy somebody asking you how your day was. Humans are such complex creatures that it would be insulting to treat everybody with the same sort of consideration.
But I’m not here to shoot down advice and guidelines. I’m here to provide you with a social strategy that’ll work in every situation. A social strategy that if you follow, you’ll never have a problem with charm again.
Charm Everybody You Meet
It’s simple. It’s the golden rule for grownups. Call it The Golden Strategy.
“Treat others how they would like to be treated.”
It’s not the cookie-cutter strategy that the golden rule is, but that’s what makes social interactions enjoyable. It’s a puzzle you have to figure out. Everybody is different in their own unique way and you have to learn what it is that separates them.
Before I discovered the strategy I might as well have been deciphering some hidden language without a Rosetta’s Stone.
With the golden strategy, I then had something I could solve, something I can piece together. And like every puzzle, there are guidelines you can follow to make your life easier.
They are as follows:
Get out of your head
Social interaction is like a dance. A dance is fluid and exists in the present moment. You have to be able to notice the subtleties of your partner’s body, the groove of the music, and the aesthetic of the dance all while the dance is in motion. If you try to plan the move out in your head, it’ll look clumsy in the execution because you would miss out on critical information.
Social interaction is the same way. You have to be able to understand the subtleties of their speech, the implications of slight gestures, and the overall direction of the conversation. To do that you must be completely in the present.
You can try:
- Active listening: what works for me is I summarize what the other person is saying in my own words in my head. It helps clarify what they’re saying, and it reveals clever nuances I wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
Pay extreme attention to the words they use
Words that you hear over and over again are indicative of something deeper. It could convey core beliefs, how they process information, and how they see the world.
For example, if somebody uses the phrase “I think” over the phrase “I feel,” you can conclude they are more driven by data than colorful storytelling.
If you hear the word “fun” over and over again, you can conclude that that person hates being bored.
The Benjamin Franklin effect
The Benjamin Franklin effect is as follows:
A person who has performed a favor for someone is more likely to do another favor for that person than they would be if they had received a favor from that person.
In social interactions it works like this:
They’ll like you more the more they invest in the conversation.
It’s not about word count. It’s about emotional strings. When they ask you a question, it’s because they feel curiosity. When they talk about that one time they got pulled over by a cop, they relive that exact moment and all the emotions they felt. When they answer a question about what they do for a living, they’re just going off autopilot.
Match their energy…
and then go a level above it. Go too low and the porridge is too cold. Go too high and the porridge is too hot. Match their energy and go just a level above it and the porridge is just right.
Going back to the earbud example. If I thought I could provide a better experience for you than your music could and I wanted to talk to you, I would go for it. Being considerate isn’t about never stepping on somebody’s toes. In the example, you might not enjoy the conversation, but there’s also a possibility you would. If I didn’t talk to you, I would be depriving both of us of that experience.
That’s why staying out of your head is so important. When you take risks you have to be able to gauge the reaction and switch gears/stay solid when necessary.
Optimism is always appreciated, even when it is unwarranted, and is a surefire way to charm everybody you meet. This isn’t to say you can never be negative, but if you bring the energy lower, remember to bring it back up. Oftentimes this “roller coaster” is an effective way to create emotional impact. Sales ads use it all the time eg “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…Now that I have Life Alert…” You get the idea.
Wrapping it all up
For people who like to observe and stay out of the lime light, this is perfect. With your keen observation, you will be able to find such nuances in their character, they’ll feel as if you’re one of the few people who understands them. This creates a deep connection between the both of you without you even having to say much.
Treating others the way they would like to be treated is the golden strategy. Follow it and you’ll receive warmth and embrace. Ignore it, however, and you’ll catch the cold shoulder.
With every strategy, there are guidelines that will guide your decisions. They are universal and applicable in every situation. They are:
- Get out of your head
- Pay extreme attention to the words they use
- Utilize the Benjamin Franklin effect
- Match their energy
- Be considerate
- Be positive
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