Meeting New People: Be All Ears and Less Mouth

6/4/2012 1:02:23 AM

Are you the kind of person who thrives on meeting new people, or one whose palms break into a sweat at the very thought? Whether we like it, love it, or hate it, it’s something we all need to do—and the more comfortable we become with it, the better.
Being skilled at getting to know new people isn’t about winning a popularity contest, being good-looking or smart, or even about being remarkably interesting.  Here’s the scoop: to be well-received (and liked) when meeting new people, your best bet is simply to ask questions and be a good listener.
My mother-in-law Lea likes to talk about the parties she attended with her rocket scientist husband, Dale. She was far less educated than her husband’s “high tech” peers. Theoretically, these should have been intimidating situations but, for Lea, they were a piece of cake. Her Dale would receive one compliment after another about his wife’s graciousness and intelligence!
That’s because Lea had a secret when meeting new people. She figured she couldn’t compete with their smarts, so she listened intently and asked them lots of questions. Lea instinctively knew that if they did most of the talking (which most people like to do!) her encounters would be a success. And, that’s exactly what happened, time and again.
When you meet new people (especially in college!) or are in a social setting where you don’t know the others very well, take a page from Lea’s playbook. Take the pressure off yourself by letting them do most of the talking. (Note that this works especially well if you’re shy by nature.) 

Here are some tips to help you be on the winning end of the people-meeting game:
  1. Put the other person at ease by your friendly smile and relaxed, open body posture.
  2. Make and maintain eye contact.
  3. Give them your full attention. Don’t let your eyes wander to the TV, out the window, or worse yet, to your cell phone.  NO TEXTING.
  4. Don’t be too quick to disagree, criticize, or argue. Let the other person share his point of view without interrupting or trying to make a counter point.
  5. Ask lots of questions.
  6. Don’t talk too much yourself. Listen, nod, make affirmative comments, and ask for clarity when needed so she knows you're engaged in what she's saying.
  7. Show a keen interest in the other person. You'll be amazed at how they respond to your responsiveness!

When you’re in situations where you don’t know many others, do you take the initiative to talk to strangers? Do you mostly talk about yourself or inquire about them?  Share your ideas for learning to be a good people-meeter—or for helping your teens develop this skill—by leaving us a comment. And, as always, please pass this along to a friend by email, Facebook, or Twitter!