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How to Make a Good Connection with New People

Not everyone is a social butterfly or a salesman, but almost all of us have situations where we have to meet new people and make a good impression.

Not everyone is a social butterfly or a salesman, but almost all of us have situations where we have to meet new people and make a good impression. It comes naturally to some, but the rest of us can enhance our skills if we follow a few simple rules.

The good news is that no matter how uncomfortable it seems at first, it gets easier the more you practice. You gain confidence in your ability to break the ice and establish a good rapport.

But practice doesn’t help unless you practice the right things. Below are some simple rules that you can keep in mind. Follow these, and you’ll quickly master the art of making people comfortable, and creating an easy bond.

Start off positive. Smile and offer a friendly, firm handshake.

Use names. Share your name, and use the other person’s name several times while you look at his or her face. It will help you remember the name.

Too often we immediately forget someone’s name because we’re distracted by what to say next. Learn to focus on the other person. After you hear the name, say it a few times to burn it into your memory.

Use good body language.

  • Nod
  • Smile
  • Have an open, engaged expression
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Gesture openly (don’t fold your arms)
  • Don’t click your pen, or play with the phone in your pocket

It’s not about you. Ask about what’s important to the other person – their family, pets, hobbies, books they’ve read, movies they’ve seen, TV shows they enjoy.

As the other person shares this information, follow up with intelligent questions and listen for the answer. It’s not enough to hear what they’re saying. You have to listen for understanding. Not for agreement. You want to understand what’s important to the other person.

Be encouraging. When people share what’s important to them, find something nice to say about it. Never criticize or try to diminish the importance of what the other person cares about.

Don’t interrupt. Never force your voice over the other person. Wait until they have finished speaking.

Share something. Tell something about yourself that the other person can relate to. It’s especially useful to share a simple emotional experience you have in common. But don’t go too far into TMI.

Be yourself. Be authentic and comfortable. Don’t put on airs or pretend to be more or less than you really are.

Honestly answer questions. During the conversation the other person may ask you about yourself. You don’t have to share your life secrets, but be honest and direct in your answers.

Leave graciously. Nobody likes to get cornered or stuck in a conversation, especially in a crowded forum where there are lots of people to meet. Learn a few simple escape tactics, and use them if the conversation seems to drag, or if you have monopolized too much of the other person’s time.

Excuse yourself to get a drink, or food. Or simply say, “I’ve used up a lot of your time, but it’s been a pleasure meeting you.”

Make your own rules. This list is just a starting point, and it won’t be the perfect list for everyone. As you practice, you’ll learn your own techniques. Be aware of yourself and what you do, and how it affects other people. You might even take notes.

Learn from others. When you see other people who are very effective in social settings, study what they say and do, and try to incorporate their methods into your own style.

One person you could learn from is Warren Buffett. He’s not only a famous investor, he’s also a brilliant communicator. To learn Warren Buffett’s Communication Secrets, consider attending Kiplinger’s one-hour webinar.

This article is provided by Morey Stettner, author of The Art of Winning Conversation and host of popular Kiplinger webinars on communications and workplace management.

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