One of the biggest misnomers about social skills is that it’s one of those things that comes naturally. The reality of the matter is that being socially confident and charismatic can actually be learned.
In fact, studies have shown that researchers can manipulate how charismatic someone is perceived by coaching them to do specific things. It’s a fact: social skills are just like any other skill”¦.they can be learned, practiced and perfected.
But where do you start?
When you’re learning a new skill it’s vital to understand the rules of the game.
Today I want to share four unspoken social rules you must know. I also share how you can use each secret to your advantage to increase your charisma and likability in any social situation.
Have you ever judged someone instantly? Perhaps they rubbed you the wrong way with their reaction to something you said or you didn’t like the way they shook your hand. Don’t worry, this is human.
Research shows that we make judgements about people before we even have time to gather our thoughts. First impressions are impulsive, quick and can even happen unconsciously.
This means that your first interaction with someone can make or break how they perceive you. In most cases, when you form an opinion about someone immediately it tends to stick and it is unusually accurate.
In an Stanford experiment, researchers had subjects watch a professor teach in 2 to 10 second muted video clips and make an assessment of their personality based on 14 personality traits. They then compared these snap judgements to the teacher evaluations from students were actually taught by the professors during the semester. They found a surprisingly high correlation between the stranger’s and the student’s assessments of the professor concluding that snap judgements can be strangely accurate.
Even more surprising and to the point was that there wasn’t a significant difference in the accuracy of the personality assessments when they compared the stranger’s snap judgments that were formed after viewing a 30 second clip versus a 6 second clip!
This phenomenon is called “thin slicing” popularized by the best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell (but initially coined by social psychologists Ambady and Rosenthal). Essentially, by observing a “thin slice” of someone’s personality you can form a strong and pretty accurate opinion of them.
Once you decide whether or not you like someone it’s pretty hard to change your mind. The reason why we don’t want to seek opposing information about how someone’s real character may differ from our “thin sliced” assessment is because there’s an additional brain power that goes into figuring them out”¦.and we’re lazy.
Instead of trying to figure out someone’s real personality, we get stuck in the confirmation bias where we look for information that confirms what we already think about someone and that strengthens our initial opinion.
So what does all this mean for you?
This means you have to make your first impressions count.
A simple body language cue I always use is smiling. Smiling works because even if you feel anxious, the physical act of smiling will help you lower stress levels and creates positive feelings. The other by-product of smiling is that you’ll send feel-good vibes their way via mirror neurons which trigger the feelings associated with smiling.
So the next time you’re unsure of how to make a good first impression simply start with a smile to build charisma and likability.
Secret #2: People like People Like Themselves
We all want to think of ourselves as objective and fair people, but the truth of the matter is that we tend to like people like ourselves.
In an interesting study from the 70’s they found that college students were more willing to give a stranger a dime for a phone call if they were dressed like students compared to those who dressed as hippies.
You’ve probably experienced this first hand. Have you ever met a stranger but immediately felt attracted to them after you realized you had something in common like attending the same school or growing up in the same town? You may have even assumed because you had that one thing in common you share even more similarities.
Noting the confirmation bias that we covered in the last point, once you develop a liking to someone you continue looking for traits that confirm your snap judgement of liking that person resulting in a positive loop of liking that person who has something in common with you.
So now that you know people have a tendency to like people like themselves, what can you do about it?
Find common ground as soon as you can.
You can do this by doing two things: you can ask questions and you can open up about yourself.
An easy framework to ask questions that I like to use is called the ORCA framework, it helps you remember different types of questions you can ask.
- Origins- where someone is from, where they went to school
Recreation- hobbies, what they like to do on weekends
Career- where they work, how they got into, why they chose that field
Aspirations- where do they want to travel to, if they could do anything what would they do?
The second part is opening up about yourself. It never hurts to show some vulnerability by sharing things about yourself. Displaying vulnerability can help you be perceived as more likable and relatable, it’s called the Pratfall Effect. By peppering in some “I” statements that are relevant to your conversation, you can share some things about yourself that may build some common ground and rapport.
For example, if you’re on the topic of “career” and the person you’re speaking with is in a similar field you can let them finish their story about where they work and then share what you’re working on. You can say something like, “That’s awesome that you’re interested in design. I also went to design school and worked for XYZ company right after college.”
Secret #3: People Love Talking About Themselves
Did you know that the same parts of the brain that are activated during moments of pleasure (like sex) are the same parts of your brain that are activated when you talk about yourself?
A Harvard experiment even found that subjects were willing to give up money just to answer questions about themselves!
One of the easiest ways to build rapport with someone is to simply let them talk about themselves. By showing interest in someone and inviting them to talk about themselves you’re giving them a lot of pleasure and in turn you’re perceived as charismatic.
But to be really effective at this you want to make sure you’re truly listening.
How do you listen effectively?
You can be a good listener by nodding intermittently, maintaining eye contact, summarizing what the other person said and asking clarifying questions. Another effective tactic is to ask someone’s advice or opinion about something (like they did in the experiment), this will build charisma points instantly!
Another great rule of thumb is to never interrupt someone else. You may be tempted to throw in your two cents as someone is talking about something you’re really passionate about, but wait until the other person completes their thought. Even if your comment is relevant or about them, the action of interrupting throws off the flow of conversation.
Secret #4: It does matter what other people think
I want to be really specific here because other people’s opinions matter to a certain degree. You should always be true to yourself. But it’s important for you to understand how to make the impression you want to make and how to get the outcome you want.
It’s all about context. For example, people who are deemed “likable” in the workplace get promoted faster and are deemed as more credible. People would rather work with someone who is more likable and less competent rather than someone who is less likable and more competent.
So while people may tell you, “it doesn’t matter what people think of you,” it actually does in contexts like the workplace, networking events, or any time you’re trying to sell something.
Now that you understand that how you’re perceived can impact your job, salary and your life think about the impression you want to make on other people.
If you haven’t put much thought into this before, start by asking a few trusted friends or colleagues for some honest feedback. Ask them how they perceive you and how others perceive you, mention that you are simply looking for some objective feedback as you’re working on improving your communication skills.
Remember, you’re in control. By using some of the tactics that increase your charisma and likability you can begin making the impression you want to make and getting the results you deserve.
Conclusion & Bonus
The first step in mastering a game is understanding the rules of the game being played around you. Understanding the importance of first impressions, that people like people like themselves, enjoy talking about themselves and that people’s opinions can make an impact on your career is vital to being an effective communicator.
By deeply understanding these principles and ways you can use them to your advantage you’ll be able to increase your likability and charisma. Remember, it’s not other people’s jobs to “get you,” it’s your responsibility to express the best version of yourself.