Here’s the scenario.
Your friend invites you to a party downtown where you don’t know anyone other than your friend. Anyone.
You arrive with your friend who promptly dips to another room without introducing you to anyone. What a jerk!
Do you have what it takes to make friends with these people in the room right away?
I’m not talking about making drunk friends. I’m talking about having the confidence and social skillset to make friends of the room in a short amount of time.
Most people dread this scenario and I’m sure you can relate. It sucks to only know 1 or 2 people at a party, gathering or event. No one likes to go to an event alone because you don’t have that backup of your social circle when things get quiet, awkward or uncomfortable.
So, what do you do?
I have always hated being in these types of scenario’s. If I am going to an event, I always try to find a friend who is also going so that I can have that person as a fallback. I don’t really feel comfortable approaching people I don’t know. I can be awkward at first conversations and am told that I don’t always open quickly.
Clearly, I have not always been the best at meeting and making new acquaintances… but it is a skill I have developed over the past couple of years out of necessity.
I have worked in sales the past 3 years and, as a result, my livelihood rests on my ability to form authentic relationships fast. To not develop this trait would have been career suicide.
Use it to meet and make friends with people in a new city, help your networking skills, or simply help you authentically connect with others faster.
So, here are my 7 tips for developing relationships fast so you can make friends with people you only just met.
Before I get into actual conversation starters that I use, it’s important to have the right mindset going into a setting like the above.
The reason we don’t always feel comfortable in situations like these isn’t so much relative to your own social skills or comfort level around others, it is more biological.
Evolutionarily speaking, we don’t like uncomfortable situations. Our brain subconsciously interprets them as potentially dangerous and with unknown results.
The key to disposing this ‘fight or flight’ mechanism is to make sure your presence creates comfort both for yourself and for others.
The key to doing this is to come off as non-threatening.
Everyone is awkward and a bit uncertain! That’s the truth whether you realize it or not.
So, embrace it and be friendly.
I have a friend who isn’t the wittiest, funniest or best conversationalist. He makes up for this with his demeanor as he comes across immediately as the most open and non-threatening person in the world.
He does this with his body language, smile, eye contact and confidence.
He doesn’t wait for someone to approach him. He makes eyes contact, has a huge smile on his face and just goes for it.
I have seen him make even the most well-known ice-queens melt under his demeanor.
The takeaway from this?
If you are feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable or self-conscious. Slap a goofy grin on your face, relax your posture and go for it.
On to #2!
2. Ask questions
Everyone likes to talk about themselves. This is a no-brainer and should be your go-to for making conversation.
The one thing I will say about this tip, though, is… don’t be generic! Ask questions that are unique.
I always try to ask questions that are a bit out of left-field. Why? Because you are not going to create an authentic relationship from a non-genuine, blah blah blah conversation.
In sales, the go-to conversation maker when meeting with clients tends to be the old standby of “So…. are you all busy this week?”
I HATE that question! It is such a crutch to lean on and does nothing to progress a conversation.
So, back to the party example.
Instead of asking the usual questions like…
How do you all know each other?”
Where are you from?
What do you do for a living?
Ask questions that are interested and get people excited to talk with you.
So, what’s the juicy gossip?
Who’s the craziest in the room?
Who’s the most fun?
What’s something weird about you?
These types of questions should be situational and shouldn’t be canned 20 questions. But they should be out of the norm… creating the opportunity for a genuine interaction to take place.
What do people like more than talking about themselves? Receiving a compliment!
One of the best conversation starters is a compliment.
I’m not talking a creepy pick-up artist compliment like I love your eyes.
I’m talking about a compliment that is the result of a quick observation that can lead to platonic conversation.
Try to notice things about the people around you. What they are wearing, what they are eating/drinking, how they are interacting with others, etc.
I love that watch. Looks like James Bond’s. Ever see those movies?
You’re drinking an IPA I see. What’s your favorite?
I really like that _____
The purpose of the compliment is to get the other person involved and a conversation developed. The key to doing so is practice. Practice makes perfect.
4. Be interested. Be Genuine
This is the most important skill I have learned and is very much related to #1 with how you approach conversation.
You have to be interested in other people. Genuinely interested.
The main difference between people who can talk into a room and own it is their ability to project their genuine interest in getting to know and interact with the others in the room.
In years past when encountered with these kinds of scenarios, I use to not care at all. I wasn’t invested in trying to get to know others. I simply didn’t want to get to know anyone else can this was projected in the way I carried myself and the way I spoke with others.
The whole don’t give any f*cks lifestyle approach definitely does not apply when trying to get to know others.
If you want to get to know others, you have to WANT to get to know others. It’s tough to fake genuine enthusiasm and people pick up on this more than you know.
In years past I was always looking for a way out of a conversation, to move on to chat with people I was already friend with.
If that is you, I would encourage you to actively try to rewire your approach to actually want to get to know others.
5. Want to learn
Along the same lines, if you want to actually want to get to know others but struggle with this authentically, I would encourage you to shift your mindset to one of wanting to LEARN instead.
As opposed to just asking questions to get a conversation going or to check off the list of the things you should know about someone, have the intention of wanting to LEARN.
The upside to this attitude is that chance are you will always have the opportunity to learn because everyone knows something you don’t.
Make it your mission to find out what that thing is! Get them to teach it to you!
For example, just met someone who said their hobby is car racing. You will likely ask the usual questions like. What do you race? Where do you race? How’d you get into that?
Instead of asking those types of questions, attempt to LEARN how to race cars. Ask questions like, how does car racing work? How do you race? What are the rules? How does it technically work?
See the difference? You are actively trying to learn from the other person and they will tell that you are invested in the interaction.
6. Fake it!/Act
This one might seem like it contradicts my call to be genuine and authentic (#4) in your interactions with others but I feel like it is a necessary step for many of us who struggle with wholly and authentically investing themselves in social interactions.
I rarely say this because I think it prevents us from fully committing to change to improvement, but in the case of forming relationships fast and genuinely, FAKE IT.
FAKE IT… but still be genuine. Huh?
Here’s what I mean.
If you are introverted, think about the different costumes you wore and personas you adopted for Halloweens in the past couple of years. If you’re like me, when you donned that costume, your confidence went through the roof. You WERE that character and you had the utmost confidence to pretend to be him/her in all aspects and to deliver his/her mannerisms/lines in such a manner.
If you think about it, this is likely to be quite the contradiction to your normal introverted self. You acted that way because it was encouraged that day and the stakes were not high. The more you did it, the more confident you became. You didn’t think twice about it. It was natural and you genuinely were confident and invested in it.
You were faking it, but at the same time you were not because you knew that you were “acting.”
Take this same approach but apply it to scenarios where you normally want to run away.
Pretend you are an actor.
Suck it up, strut into that room and despite what your head is telling you, have confidence and act as if you are filling a role.
Do this enough and you will address the largest factor that is causing you to dread those scenarios in the first place – fear of failure.
Once you realize this is all for naught, your genuineness will shine through and it will no longer be a fake.
If you can channel the same fearlessness that you do on Halloween, you can do the same in “real-life.”
If you are struggling with any of the above tips, just remember FORD.
Family, Occupation, Recreation and Dreams.
These are the four areas that most people have in common and therefore are the common ground that can root any conversation.
If you ever stall out in a conversation, ask a question related to FORD and watch it pick up again.
Note: I picked up some of these tips like FORD from Quora and Reddit.
I’d love to hear about the techniques you use form relationships fast. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org