Recently, I attended a wedding at the incredible W Hotel in Dallas, TX. It was a great time.
Everybody was dressed up; the champagne was flowing. Everyone was looking good and feeling good.
I often joke that I am going to offer services to be a “professional plus-one” at weddings for my career. I’ll have a website where people can rent me as their date for the weekend for three easy payments of $19.95.
I’ve been to a lot of weddings over the past few years, and I feel like I work the crowd pretty well.
I chat up the mother of the bride, teach the young nephew how to do "The Wobble," talk sports with the grandfather; shake hands, crack jokes, kiss cheeks, hug randoms and all that good wedding stuff.
I feel like a young Vince Vaughn in "Wedding Crashers."
A bucket list item for me is to be at a wedding where I don’t know a single person, but I somehow give a killer speech. I want people to laugh and then cry and then laugh again, and when I sit down, they lean over to the person next to them and ask, “Who was that?”
The wedding I attended in Texas wasn’t just a regular wedding, though; it was the wedding of my girlfriend’s brother. So, it was at this wedding, in particular, I really wanted to make a good impression.
Something I've learned is there is one skill that can instantly make us more likable as people, yet very few of us do it. Why? Because it's not that sexy of a skill, and a lot of times, it's not that fun to practice. But, it works.
At the end of the weekend, I had an older gentleman walk up to me on his way out to address how impressed he was with me. He said,
“You know, I’ve been to a lot of these weddings and there is always somebody who stands out, and you were that person this weekend. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
I lit up. It’s always nice to receive compliments, of course, but it was also cool to see how easy it is to become likable.
What is this one skill that's easy to implement and works like a charm, yet most of us never do?
The social skill that makes you instantly more likable is listening. Yep, actually listening to people makes you a more likable person.
I know, it's extremely anti-climatic, but it's a game-changer.
We love to talk about ourselves. That’s why people post that they're #blessed to be at their college graduation on Twitter.
It's why I spent 500 words in the intro talking about how I rock at weddings. It’s why, when you scroll through Facebook, it seems like all of your friends are millionaires, professional chefs and world travelers, even though you know your friends aren’t that cool in real life.
We love to share and talk about cool things we have going on.
According to his book, "Contagious," Jonah Berger writes that when we talk about ourselves and share our opinions, it activates the same brain circuits as rewards, like food or money.
So, when someone is speaking to you, he or she has all these feel-good chemicals in his or her brain, and is associating those good feelings with interacting with you. Even though you're just sitting there, listening, this person walks away feeling positive vibes toward you.
Let’s take it back to second grade, and I’ll teach you a simple formula for listening; here it is in three easy steps:
1. Stop talking about yourself.
2. Ask others questions about themselves.
3. Become a professional plus-one at weddings.
It's that simple.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was known to constantly ask questions and make visits to competitors' stores to check out their tactics and strategies.
Once, Walton was even arrested in Brazil for crawling around the floor with a tape measure trying to figure out how far apart the aisles were spaced.
His management team would ask him why he didn't spend more time in his own store, figuring out how to improve things, and he would respond that he already knows everything going on in his stores.
Walton sought to learn new tactics, specifically from competitors, that would make his stores better. And that’s how I view listening.
You already know everything about yourself. You know your story, your strengths, your interests, how you like your burger cooked. Spend time listening and learning about others.
I wrote about being likable before, and there are certainly other factors, but this is something that is so easy to start doing; it's a strategy that really does work.
Try being a better listener, and watch your connections increase ten-fold.
Thanks for listening!