Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt the immediate need to shower just because of how uncomfortable the experience was for you? Now, think about another time in which you met someone, had a conversation and walked away feeling like you truly connected with that person. You feel so connected, in fact, you want to see them again just because of how good they made you feel. Have you ever felt that way?
These are some things that came to mind today when I was in my car thinking about how I communicate with people, and how I've noticed other people communicate with each other and with me. I thought about the different feelings I experienced after different meetings or encounters with people, and it led me to think about what it was that I liked or disliked about talking to different people.
So, here are the five qualities I appreciate most when meeting new people, and also when communicating with people I already know:
1. Saying "hello."
It's such a simple thing to do, yet so many people seem to have real trouble getting these two syllables out. Think about how uncomfortable it makes you feel when you say hello to someone and they don't reciprocate it, or when someone walks into a room and lingers in awkward silence (often with their hands in their pockets, shoulders shrugged), as if you were already in a conversation and neither of you know's who's turn it is to speak.
Are you sometimes the culprit of this heinous crime against positive human interaction? If you are, then think to yourself about a time when you watched someone walk into a room and greeted everyone, and as they did the whole room seemed to light up with a new energy because of this person's simple act. How good did it make you feel that somebody took a moment of their time to greet you?
Would you like to know the solution? It can be a tad scary for those of you new to speaking with people. You say, "Hello." Whether they're a stranger you made eye contact with on the bus or someone you know, but don't feel like saying hello to because you think you already know them "well enough," just do it and see what happens.
I guarantee if you decide to take on the task, you will instantly begin enjoying better and more enjoyable encounters with people.
2. Paying a genuine compliment.
I love it when someone says something nice about me, but I love to give compliments even more so.
Seriously, how good does it feel when someone says something like, "You smell nice," " I love your hair," "That's a great shirt," "Those shoes are awesome?" Or how about a real deep one that I love (and am grateful to have received a few times), "You have a great energy." That's a good one.
And how about that look you get from people when you pay them a compliment? It's a kind of awkward blush/smile/smirk, but you can see it made them feel really good. And that, in turn, makes you feel really, really good, too. Don't you just love that? I know I do.
The trick to paying a great compliment, and what can mean the difference between you both feeling amazing or you wishing you could walk out of the room, come back in and try a second time is to be genuine.
Humans are intuitive creatures. We pick up on behavior, tones and body cues really well, so even when we don't consciously acknowledge that we noticed something strange, our subconscious does notice it and that's when we are left with the strange feeling that something just isn't right.
When you're not being genuine, you put out strange signals that the recipient will pick up on, then they will send back strange signals because they are now uncomfortable. And you're both left in a silent, awkward dance of indecision about whether or not you continue talking to each other or run and hide in embarrassment.
My trick to paying someone a great genuine compliment is to be honest! If I don't 100 percent believe in the compliment I'm about to give, then I don't give it.
Now that you're aware of it, you'll notice it more that there are a lot of people who will pay you a phony compliment in an effort to buy your time. This is because they have an agenda for even speaking to you in the first place. And when you do notice it, you'll realize you've been that fake person in the past. But not to worry, you're making a change.
Compliments, you love to get them, now you should love to give them even more.
3. Making and maintaining eye contact.
This is a skill that I admit takes some actual work to master. It really does require effort on your part while you're learning this skill to focus on the person you are talking to, and to give them the full attention and respect they deserve for sharing their valuable time with you.
One major hurdle people have with this skill is technology. So often, people are more focussed on their phones during a physical conversation than they are with the person they're actually with, and it's so sad to watch. Yes, I've been guilty of it and sometimes I still catch myself falling into the trap, but nowadays I catch myself and realize that being present with the person I'm next to is much more important than responding to a Facebook message. Seriously, the meme can wait.
In order to make a habit out of this, you have to try it, then try it some more and keep trying until you can have a full conversation with someone without looking at your phone. The second tip is to apologize when your focus strays. There is nothing quite like holding yourself accountable for your actions, so next time you pick up your phone when a person is talking to you, I want you to put your phone down, apologize for not being completely present and acknowledge that you appreciate that person's time.
How badly do you feel when you're talking to someone and it's like talking to a ghost? You tell them about something great that happened in your day, and it's like it goes in one ear and straight out the other. It actually hurts a little, doesn't it?
So, how can you avoid causing other people that same pain? It's simple. You put down your damn phone, and you listen to what they have to say. Then when they have said what they have to say, you acknowledge it and tell them something great that happened in your day.
This continues for however long it takes, then at the end of the conversation you will both smile because you both feel great that someone not only shared something great with you, but they also let you share something great with them. As the old saying goes "sharing is caring," which means having a conversation with someone is the same as caring for them. What a revelation.
Just about every conversation I have nowadays, especially when it's with someone totally new, ends with me thanking them for their time. Some of you are like, "Wait, what? This guy thanks people for speaking to him? What a weirdo." But I'm serious. I actually thank people for speaking with me.
I do it because when I communicate with someone and all four of the previous skills are put into practice, then that is going to be one amazing conversation. Honestly, if both parties are rock star communicators, then the kinds of conversations you can have even in a matter of moments can be incredible.
So, just like when a friend cooks you a spectacular meal and you thank them for doing so, I thank people for spending their time with me and having an awesome chat. You don't always have to actually say it (even though it feels really good when you do).
You can actually show your gratitude for that person just by being present with them and practicing the skills we've talked about already. I guarantee that if you do all of these things, that person will feel your gratitude even if you don't physically say, "Thank you."
The next time you speak with someone and you genuinely feel like you had a great chat, I want you to say these exact words to that person:
"Thank you so much for this chat, I really enjoyed talking with you." If you can do this and be genuine, I assure you people will be coming back to you just to be able to speak with you and share their time and presence with you. This is because you made them feel respected, appreciated and you made it feel worthwhile for them to share their time with you.
Time is the most valuable asset you have, and sharing it with other people is precious. Remember that the next time someone is gracious enough to share their time with you, and practice these skills in every conversation you have. By doing so, you will be adding great amounts of value to their already treasured time and that is a service this world needs more of.