The following questions come directly from hand-written audience evaluations from my speeches. I hope they provide you with great insight into approachability!
How can I get over fear of rejection?
First of all, you’re not alone. Fear of rejection is the #1 reason humans are terrified of public speaking, afraid to approach others, and especially, ask others out on dates. (Boy have I been there before!)
My suggestion: reps. It’s just like working out. Let’s say you did 20 reps of 50 lbs. every day for two weeks. The third week, you could easily move up to 65 lbs, right? The same goes with communication. You need reps. If you’re afraid of being rejected by someone, practice engaging with people who CAN’T reject you.
Strike up casual conversations with retail salespeople, waitresses, even bus drivers to create positive experiences that build confidence. Then, the more you experience acceptance from these people, the more likely you will be to approach others in the future.
How do you incorporate creative, open ended questions into small talk?
Obviously, you don’t want to say hello to a stranger and then ask, ‘So, what’s your favorite cereal?’ Odds are, they’ll think you’re weird! What’s important to remember is the phrasing: ‘What’s the one thing…?’ ‘What is the best part…?’ ‘How many times have you…?’
Next, listen to key phrases called ‘iceberg statements.’ These are little tidbits of info dropped by someone in a conversation under which are 90% more information about interests, values and experiences. For example, if your conversation partner says, ‘When I was climbing over the summer…’ That’s your ticket to learn more! Inquiry about those interests and the person will be happy to tell you about themselves.
How do you break the ice?
You have a few choices:
- Comment/question about the person
- Comment/question about the situation
- Comment/question about yourself
- Comment/question about something completely random
Remember: humans engage with each other for five reasons: to learn, to influence, to play, to help and to relate. So the key is: observe. Look for possible openers, funny observations that just NEED to be made, or curiosities that need to be satisfied. Engage accordingly.
How do you make a good first impression?
Boy, that’s a big one! But here are a few tips that helped me over the years. First of all, remember that time is not on your side. Different books and studies will argue the number of seconds you have to make a first impression – 10 seconds, 7 seconds, and 2 seconds – whatever. Just remember that it’s quick.
Secondly, smiling will never, ever get you in trouble. It’s the number one indicator that conversation is desirable. And it’s so easy! Practice smiling for five seconds every time you walk into a room. You might feel like an idiot, but remember: everyone looks at the person who walks into the room. They will remember whether or not you smiled.
Next, humor. I’m not telling you to crack jokes, I’m talking about humor. It’s the single greatest way to make someone feel comfortable because humor is the only international language. And self-deprecating usually works pretty well. I use that one a lot because, well, I’ve got lots of material!
Lastly, choose your emotions wisely. Mother Theresa once said, ‘People might not remember what you said, they might not remember what you did, but they will never forget the way you made them feel.’ Therefore, the best first impressions don’t make you feel good about yourself, they don’t make someone else feel good about you, but make someone else feel good about themselves.
Do people form opinions about you before they open their mouth?
Yep. Kind of a bummer, huh? But it’s true. It’s human nature. And often times (not all the time), these split-second impressions are accurate. For example, I once saw two women walk into a bar and commented to myself, ‘Man, these girls look really mean.’
Now, I said that because they weren’t smiling, had their arms crossed and kept their hair straight down in front of their faces, almost as if they were ‘hiding’ something. (I’d never met them before.) But sure enough, a few minutes later, it turned out that they were friends of the group I was with. (Doh!)
Interestingly enough, they actually DID turn out to be mean.
What are some conversation starters and continuers?
There are four components to conversations:
Since we’ve already talked about openers, let’s move on to sustainers. These are follow-up questions that show interest and enable someone to continue talking. For example, ‘Really?! Wow. What did you do?’ or ‘What happened?’ or ‘So, what did that teach you?’
Probers are those specific inquiries that give someone permission to open up on an existing topic. They also show that you’re listening. For example, if you’re talking with a potential member of your organization, you might ask, ‘So, what was the best event you attended last year?”
Closers are the exit to the conversation. These depend on whether or not you’re going to see the person later that day, that night, that week, that month, some day or never. Possible lines include:
- ‘Alright I gotta chat with some other folks, but, I’m going to be around all night if you need anything.’
- ‘I’m out of here, but it was cool talking to you. I’m here every day if you ever want to stop by or have any questions.’
- ‘Hey, good to meet ya – maybe I’ll see ya around campus this week!’
- ‘Nice chatting with you, I’m sure we’ll run into each other again.’
How do you approach different personality types?
If you know a person is shy, the last thing you want to do is say, ‘Don’t be shy!’ or ‘Are you shy?’ Shy people are only shy because other people tell them they are shy. So, that doesn’t help!
Next, listen to the way someone communicates. If he said, ‘I think…’ to start most of his statements, he’s a systematic personality. He prefers order, numbers and concrete examples. On the other hand, if someone says, ‘I feel…’ a lot, that’s a heuristic communicator who prefers emotions, feelings and the like. Adjust your communication accordingly.