1. Action is eloquence. Make sure that what you actually are speaks louder than what you say you are.
2. Admit to cynicism. Think about what a cynical, bitter critic would say about you, your idea, or your product. Like David Spade on Hollywood Minute, for example.
Then, share that idea early. It will be disarming and reduce your threat level.
3. Appearance. Don’t ‘dress for success.’ Dress in a way that’s consistent with who you are and makes you feel comfortable; yet at the same time, makes others feel at ease when engaging with you.
4. Ask; don’t tell. And ask really good, fun, creative, well-timed, unexpected and open-ended questions. Invite dialogue.
BECAUSE: questions are respectful and questions demonstrate listening.
NOTE: be careful to avoid potentially uncomfortable questions or too many questions.
5. Avoid (over) active listening. If you nod TOO much, smile TOO much and agree TOO much, your conversation partner is going not going to like you … TOO much!
Avoid focusing ALL your attention on ‘coming off as a good listener.’ Just relax.
The moment you TRY to be authentic is the moment you STOP being authentic.
Listening is about focusing on the OTHER person’s words, not about focusing on YOUR own abilities.
6. Avoid agreeing with everybody. Remember, there’s a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable. People respect people who take a stand.
7. Avoid generalizing. On the other hand, there’s nothing more annoying than talking to someone who’s already convinced that he’s right.
So, a good phrase to demonstrate open-minded thinking is, ‘That’s MY truth, not THEE truth.’
Concentrate more on being helpful than being right. Be confident enough to be humble.
8. Avoid misrepresentation. Don’t treat beliefs and faiths as facts. They’re not. Don’t say, ‘Well, I just KNOW,’ unless you have tangible, scientific proof.
Because without proof, you just believe. And that’s cool too! Believing is important. But that doesn’t make it a fact.
9. Be (somewhat) predictable. Prove people right. Confirm their suspicions that you are the person they thought you were and hoped you would be.
10. Be childlike, not childish. Kids put people at ease. (At least, when they’re not screaming or pooping.)
So, watch kids more often and see how they make others feel comfortable just by being themselves. C’mon, do it for the kids.
11. Be like Bill Clinton. No, I don’t mean lie. Instead, smile and make eye contact for ONE extra second when being introduced or saying goodbye. That’s it. One extra second. It makes a HUGE difference.
And people love it. After all, Clinton wasn’t called ‘The President You Could Have a Beer With’ for nothing.
12. Be like your dog. Dogs pretty much smile AT and show love and affection TO every single person they meet. And most people love dogs. Coincidence?
13. Beware of demonstrating vulnerability to early. Yes, vulnerability IS attractive. Admitting that you don’t know the answer or have been completely terrified before is a surefire way to reinforce your ordinariness and encourage comfort.
HOWEVER: don’t be too vulnerable too quickly. It may come off like you’re trying TOO hard to build rapport. And intentionality often reduces authenticity.
14. Chill. Don’t try so damn hard. Just relax. And just L-I-S-T-E-N, don’t try to control the conversation.
15. Communicate less perfectly. Ever seen a comedian, rock star or speaker TOTALLY screw something up … and then laughed about it on stage?
Right. And most people in the audience did the same: laugh.
LESSON LEARNED: Humor = Comfort.
AND REMEMBER: success isn’t perfection.
16. Dare to be dumb. The word dumb simply means, ‘Unable to speak or ignorant.’
So, it doesn’t mean you’re stupid; just confident enough to be humble.
What’s more, when you say things like, ‘I don’t know what that means,’ or ‘I never thought of it that way,’ it’s more human, relatable and approachable.
NOTE: this doesn’t mean you need to be dumb ALL the time! Don’t be George W. Bush dumb. Just dumb enough to keep yourself accountable and to keep other people comfortable.
17. Directness is appreciated. Be candid and unexpectedly honest early, but not TOO early.
Don’t be afraid of owning up to something by saying ‘I have no proof or evidence’ ‘I have no excuse’ and ‘I really messed up.’
People appreciate candor.
18. Disarm immediate preoccupation. Your primary conversational task is to diffuse defensiveness.
Because It ALWAYS exists.
So, figure out what might be bugging, bothering or irking this person about talking to ‘someone like you,’ i.e., what you look like, where you work, what you do, what you believe, etc.
Then, lay it out there early. That way, the other person isn’t spending the rest of the conversation unconsciously nodding at you while simultaneously being on lookout for that Conversational Moment of Truth when they think, ‘Yep, just as I thought. Here comes the sales pitch…’
19. Don’t ask too many questions. Sure, questions are valuable, but don’t overdo it. People don’t like to be puked on.
See, over-asking can cause four uncomfortable problems.
First of all, it can come off as overly goal-oriented, too forced and too planned.
Secondly, it projects a rapport-seeking attitude, instead of rapport-attracting attitude.
Thirdly, it will appear that you have nothing of value to share yourself.
And lastly, asking too many questions makes the other person feel like she’s being interviewed or interrogated.
And if you’ve ever seen an episode of Law and Order, you KNOW that ain’t comfortable. (I’m looking at YOU, Detective Stabler.)
20. Don’t be sneaky. Hold on there, Mr. Fox. Don’t unnaturally sneak your goal, product, sales pitch or objective into EVERY conversation! If it comes up organically, great. If not, let it go.
No need to perpetually push what you’ve got.
After all, Newton’s Second Law of Gravity proves that if you push, people will push back. And that’s not usually very comfortable either.