The world is, without a doubt, quite egocentric. It sometimes feels it is getting more so every day.
You can easily see this when interacting with people, or watch them doing so.
Maybe shortly interrupted by a pandemic or any kind of disaster when people sometimes feel like helping somebody out, without a hidden agenda.
I know what I am talking about. I have been that way myself.
It was all about me, myself, and I.
We appear to be afraid to not focus on ourselves because… no one else is either. You may even fear that those people will take something that should belong to you.
But that is short-term thinking, at best.
“The real world” and your success are strongly related to your relationships with other people. That holds for business and life.
In fact, David J. Deming demonstrated in the “The Growing Importance of Social Skills in the Labor Market” that “high-paying, difficult-to-automate jobs increasingly require social skills”:
The higher you go, the more successful you want to be, the more you must keep this in your head.
- People make decisions, not a computer or AI. I mean, ignore auto-ordered milk by your fridge – that is not what I am talking about.
- People make you feel good and appreciated, or did you ever feel complimented by an automated thank you mail?
- People are the ones who really make a difference, not material things.
Learning how to interact with people is crucial.
Yes, you can learn that.
It is just like developing a new habit. After some time, you will not even notice you are doing something differently.
But in the mass of people, with everyone reading the same books or have the same standardized connection – how do you stand out?
How do you make a connection that lasts longer than three drinks at a networking event?
How do people remember you after you have left the birthday party of your friend?
Standing out means often merely being different.
And it is easier than you might think.
Think about yourself. Then treat others the way you would like to be treated, right?
Here are 15 simple tips that are not precisely rocket science to implement, but which will work wonders!
1. Greet people – irrespective of who they are
I remember about 15 years ago, a back then relatively young colleague, who pretty much can be described as a high potential and looking like a douchebag. Except, he was not acting like one.
He immediately made a difference when we left the office late at night once and greeted the cleaning lady. “Hi, how are you?” and exchanged a few words.
At the elevator, he said: “I hate it when all the big guys in our bank feel like they are something better and ignore them [cleaning personnel]. I always greet. It is a matter of respect”.
I was struck.
Do you know the awkward situations when you stand at the elevator in an office or apartment buildings?
There are usually always folks whom you have seen countless times. Yet, no one ever greeted anyone.
Because the first time, it was a full stranger. Now it would be weird, right?
However, it can be an icebreaker. Just take a few seconds, look somebody into the eyes, and say genuinely, “Hey, how are you doing today?”
Not the kind of “Hey” as a pure formality at best when already looking somewhere else – like on your phone.
Try it, and you never know who and how the person really is and what might behind a face that you do not know at this point.
Even more important, others will see this and start remembering you.
2. Remember and say their name
“Ah, sorry, what was your name again? I am horrible at remembering names”.
Sounds familiar? You have probably said and heard this a gazillion times. I used to say: “I will not be able to remember your name before I have seen you three times.”
Talking about lack of respect and appreciation, I was an ignorant dumbass back then.
Here is a fun fact: Research shows that we are better at remembering names (64%) than faces (83%)!
People feel appreciated and positively surprised if somebody they have just met remembers their name.
Especially if you have met only once or a while ago.
I was in a shop once, and somebody said: “Hi Jue, long time no see.” It was a senior executive of a bank I used to work ages ago.
Honestly, I never thought he would remember me or my name.
So, I started figuring out how to overcome this name anxiety.
In the beginning of meeting new people, all I did was to say their name a few times simply.
When they introduce themselves, answer something like “Hi James, it is my pleasure.”
That is quite an easy hack to associate a face with a name.
Whenever you meet with someone, either intentionally or by accident – greet them with their name!
It is a small but meaningful difference because you made an effort to remember their name.
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3. Be authentic
It is probably obvious, but many people tend to fall in showcase-mode once meeting new people – especially in a bigger group.
I know everyone is excellent and outstanding, better than Superman.
Listen, you cannot play a role for a longer time. It annoys people.
Instead, it is the other way around; people will love it when you act naturally and show them who you really are.
No need for so-called perfection.
That is because, in the Instagram-times like ours, everyone is trying to put a filter on and impress.
If you act differently, that will be recognized.
It does help sitting down once and think actively about who you really are. What are your values, and what do you want other people to know about you!
Acting authentic does not mean being “mindless” and saying or doing anything that just comes to your mind.
It means showing an honest view of yourself that you do not have to fake all the time.
Eventually, those played characters will fall back into the great mass of people and disappear.
4. Shut up, listen, and ask questions
That is probably one of the most essential dating advice, too!
I know you have so many things you want the world to know.
Breaking news: So does everyone else.
I do not mean to just be present like in school and technically listen without any word from your side.
That is not precisely how interactions work.
You can simply do that by not only listening but repeating certain parts.
“Oh, so you have learned Mandarin at University already. Why did you go for that and not, for example, Spanish?”
It makes people feeling interested in them, and that feels good.
Even better, you might learn not only learn who that person is and if you want to really connect with him or her.
You might even learn something new.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama
It goes hand in hand with saying:
„If you are the smartest person in the room, then you are in the wrong room“ – Confucius
5. Do not play with your smartphone
The devil himself. The addiction of our times. Smartphones.
Nothing shows more lack of interest than playing with your phone. Even just having it on the table, “in case something happens,” qualifies.
When you talk to people, put your phone away. You are not cool or anything, holding it in your hand, playing with it while chatting, or listening to someone.
Unfortunately, it is getting very rare these days, as you see people dining while surfing social media and not even talking at all anymore. You can add 98 more examples if you feel like it.
I am still not perfect at it, but much better.
My ringtone is silenced – not even the vibration-mode is on. I try to keep it in my pocket because as soon as it is out, it will distract me.
And that means showing people they are not important. You can be different here.
“But what if something important….” – no! Barely anything is really that important or urgent, and if so, people can also use their phone to make a freaking call.
Yes, I will not hear the call because I am in silence mode. But checking for calls can be done every now and then, for example, while going to the bathroom.
Relax, everyone, and put your phone away!
6. Stop complaining – and be positive instead
The world is bad, society unfair, and the neighbor’s dog really suck. Boo-hoo!
It is what it is and what you make out of it.
But indeed, no one is keen on having you around just complaining about everything.
If it is raining, take an umbrella. End of story.
We all have at least one friend who just sits around and complains. How much do you like that?
During the current lockdown, this is getting obvious, again.
I do not like the pandemic either, spoiler! Say lockdown, travel ban, social-distancing, or face masks.
But does spreading negativity about the situation really helps? No?
Then do not do it!
Find the good things and talk about them, and if somebody complains, show solutions.
Act in a way that makes others feel good, and we got enough negative things already!
7. Show vulnerability
You are not perfect. Everybody knows simply because nobody is.
So, the moment you play Mr./Mrs. Perfect, everyone knows you are just playing a role.
Showing and admitting vulnerability is a sign of self-confidence and strength.
People will like and respect you much more if they see you are human, authentic, and have no problems to say for example: “Yeah, it is also weird for me to walk into a room of strangers to make a presentation.”
However, you can always add a positive note to say, “… but I am working on that, and actually getting better.”
It is also a great move to talk about things you used to be vulnerable about – but not anymore, and you even can give first-hand advice on how you did it.
People love to hear those stories – because let us be honest: What turns out great the first time?
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8. Compliment people
It is basically self-explanatory.
However, there is a big “but.”
Do not just throw random compliments like “You’re looking great.”
No, listen to people, even study them. If you go to certain events, you could even do some research before.
Compliments work best if they are personalized.
I recently met a former colleague and somehow knew he had the goal to run a triathlon. I brought it up because he recently posted that he really made it.
Guess how proud that dude became when I tapped his shoulder and said: “That is an amazing thing, Martin!”
All you need to do is act more thoughtful, listen carefully, and then it will be easy to make real compliments.
9. Do not have a hidden agenda
Classical networking event move. Exchange some words, hand over your card, and say: “Call me if you need a new insurance.”
No, no, no.
Especially with new people, try to really help them first. Add value without asking for anything in return.
Somebody has constant back pain, and you know a great doc? Give him his contact details.
Somebody is looking for tax advice, and you know a thing? Throw in what you know.
Somebody is traveling to a city across the country where you have been multiple times? Offer to send some bullet information points (I have a full guide for Barcelona because I have been there so often).
If you do this consistently, people will give you back – one or the other way.
Maybe not immediately, but you are doing it wrong if you are only in for quick wins. And people will see you have a hidden agenda.
10. Help others!
Last time at the supermarket, an elderly lady had trouble holding her bags and opening the freaking door.
It took me ten fast meters to help her. Not a big deal. But why did no one right next to her do that?
Again, you do not know what the story of someone is. If there are little things you can do, just do them.
And I do not mean you should become doormen at the supermarket!
If everyone is fine, people are always there. As soon as it becomes some sort of effort – folks are nowhere to be seen.
Depending on how you can help and whom – consider going the extra mile.
Little things can do miracles, and if it is just to make them a little bit happier.
It will help you stand out because barely anyone is doing it anymore.
11. Build bridges between people
We continuously come together in mixed groups where not everyone knows everyone.
Sure, we introduce ourselves – but then?
How can Rudy know that John is actually also playing golf? They may find out.
But if you are the one to say, “John, this is Rudy – he loves playing golf as much as you do!”, then both will be happy to have a great topic to start with.
And maybe even a reason to meet up again, and who knows where this leads.
You will always be the connection point, and they will be thankful.
I always try to think when inviting friends who have things in common. And I do not mean in the dating sense.
Many business relationships have started like this – and you can bet I get my fair share of rewards.
12. Actually, do follow-up!
“We haven’t seen each other in a long time, and we should meet sometime.”
End of story.
Maybe you say or agree to this and secretly hope the other one does not make the first move (fair!), or you do mean it.
Well then, follow up! Really!
Not forget about it, life came into your way, you are busy, yadda yadda.
Be the one who takes the initiative.
There are two easy ways how I handle that:
- I either take my phone with my calendar and immediately suggest a concrete date, like drinks this Thursday night, for example,
- or I make myself an appointment “follow up with Ray” if one is, for instance, in a hurry or does not know yet if he is in town.
It is not rocket science, but people will notice if you are the one who really follows up.
13. Do not take yourself too seriously
Please, start laughing about yourself and understand you are not the most important person in the world.
Somebody had great success? Let that person have the spotlight.
It did not go too well today? It is okay not to be happy, but do not make everyone else suffer from your bad mood.
A joke was made on you, maybe even touching a sore point? Take it easy, smile. If it went too far, let that person know later.
You wanted to go to the restaurant, and everyone else opted for the cocktail bar next door, which you know is not the best? Relax, you will survive.
I know this is hard sometimes. What I started doing is to think to myself: “This particular thing is irrelevant for my life, so why bother?”
14. Stand corrected and admit mistakes
That is a huge thing and can give you so much respect, especially if you are a senior and a leader in your company.
My first boss – he was a real high-flyer and is now CEO of an investment bank – said: “I make decisions fast. But if I see I was wrong, I will also not hesitate to change them”.
He held up to his word.
That is very rare. But nothing is more powerful than admitting you were wrong.
Often people hold on to mistakes just because they are too proud to admit a f**k-up. How many millions have been sunk that way already?
Just because a boss or high-level manager did not want to revert his decision.
If there are facts you did not know or interpreted differently, no one will usually blame you.
It is instead the other way around.
Your direct reports and colleagues will love you for that.
PS: … and in relationships, it will prevent a lot of arguments!
15. Do not make other people down to feel better
I probably read this very wise statement in David Schwartz, “The Miracle of thinking big,” which basically boils down to this:
People tend to overestimate others and underestimate themselves.
Hence, if both persons are on eye-level and we assume 10% of wrong estimation margin – it would mean you are suddenly at 90% and the other at 110%.
That is a 20% differential, and far-off reality!
Maybe this is an unconscious reason why so many times somebody tries to make others down to appear superior?
I do not know that, but it makes sense.
It is like, “I might not get that cake, but I rather destroy it before you get it!”
There is no reason why you should make other people down.
It will never, ever make you better. In fact, it even harms you. Because let us be honest, who likes or wants to connect with people?
Especially leaders and seniors need to be careful to not “accidentally” make people down.
I am not talking about obvious things (“You useless idiot” – come on, we are hopefully not on that level), but rather subtle phrases.
Like for example, “This is a good idea, but …”
It basically means, “nice try,” but you consider it crap.
This is how we often unconsciously make others down.
There are many things that can go wrong when interacting and communicating with other people—both professionally and personally.
Often, you might not even be aware of things that do not really help.
The good thing is, most of the others are making the same mistakes.
But when you follow the points I have outlined, you will be on a fast-track to stand out when interacting with others.
It is not rocket science, but rather become self-aware about how you communicate and then forming habits to change that way.
Are there any other tips or experiences that you have? I am always keen to learn something new! Let me know!