1. Make a deliberate error
We naturally try to go about our day making as few mistakes as possible, partly because we do not want to make ourselves vulnerable to attack from other people. However, this vulnerability can actually be a weapon you can use to make yourself more approachable. Schafer works as a lecturer now and often begins a new semester by making a simple speech mistake of some kind, as if by accident. As someone corrects him, he acts as though he’s embarrassed.
Jack says this technique achieves three aims. First of all, by correcting our error, the other person feels strengthened and confident. Secondly, they feel more relaxed and open, better able to converse with us. And finally, they are now more comfortable about making their own mistakes too.
Apply this to your own meetings and it will show the other person that you are simply a human like them, capable of making a mistake. They will then see the same to be true about themselves and will reveal themselves more naturally to you.
2. Talk to other people about themselves
People love speaking about themselves. According to academic Robert K. Holz, when they speak about themselves, their life, families, work and so on, the pleasure centers of their brains light up as if they were eating food or thinking of money. So all you need to do to make them feel this pleasure is ask them about these personal things. They will really appreciate the opportunity to talk about themselves with you.
3. Relate a compliment from someone else
Giving compliments isn’t such a straightforward business. It could be that you sound a bit weird, or forward in directly complimenting someone, so that they feel uncomfortable and unsure how to respond. A much more effective technique is to relay a compliment you’ve heard from elsewhere. You could say, for example, that ‘so and so told me you’re the most cleverest person in town.’
They will take pleasure from the compliment, but you won’t have killed the conversation stone dead with a creepy comment. They will be grateful to you for making them feel good.
4. Be as sympathetic as you can
If someone confides in you about a problem they have had, instead of monotonously saying: ‘oh dear, poor you!’, you could do a lot better by giving a natural response that forwards the conversation. The goal you want to hit is that you share their feelings and are fully aware of what they are experiencing.
There are innumerable ways of doing this, but they can be quite simple. If someone has just worked their way out of a tough spot, congratulate them and say you are glad they have been successful.
5. Ask them for a favor
Perhaps you shy away from asking favors, not wanting to impose yourself on others. No doubt you think this is better for the other person than if you asked them to help out. However, the reverse may be true. Ben Franklin originated the ‘Franklin Effect’, which was the observation that people liked him more if he asked a favor of them. People like you more because they feel better about themselves having done you the favor.
Because you are sticking to the goal of making them feel good, you have to be careful not to overdo any one strategy like this. If you constantly ask for their favor, they will eventually see you as a burden.
6. Try to get them to compliment themselves.
When offering compliments, one of the problems is that people will naturally doubt your sincerity. They will think you have some reason for being nice, and they will concentrate more on the doubt than the compliment. Instead, try to get them to compliment themselves, because in this case sincerity is not an issue. This is a hard technique to master. Think about why the following conversation works:
Them: That was such a hard job that I’ve just finished!
You: You have to be really committed to do work like that.
Them: Yes, I suppose I am. I try to give my work my all, all the time.
When you think about it, you only said one simple sentence, and they virtually had no choice but to complement themselves.