Study after study has shown that likability and social capital can help you earn more money, command respect and look more competent than you actually are.
Today I want to give you 3 actionable tips (and how to do them) so you can transform your communication skills and start gaining some of those competitive advantages in work and life.
This is a guest post from Katrina Razavi of Communicationfornerds.com, where she helps people with social anxiety improve their social confidence to live their best lives.
To provide some context, “the Gallup organization has conducted a personality factor poll prior to every presidential election since 1960.
Only one of three factors – issues, party affiliation, and likability, has been a consistent factor of the final election result.
Of course, the factor is likability.”
A Harvard study that surveyed workers in North America and Europe asked them to rank their colleagues based on competence and likability.
They found that people would rather work with someone who is likable but less competent, rather than someone who is not likable but more competent.
Now I’m not saying that competence is unimportant, I’m just proving that being likable can go a long way.
Your communication skills have a lot to do with your likability. According to Lovas and Holloway, some of the principles of likability include: familiarity, similarity, a genuine interest in one’s concerns and values, and people who make themselves easy to like (i.e. display they are trustworthy, positive, and/or genuine). All of these factors are influenced by the way you communicate and present yourself.
Luckily, you have Antonio to guide you on how to present yourself in the way you dress and develop your personal style.
For now, I want to give you 3 actionable tips in order to improve your social confidence and likability.
Tip 1: Practice your Non-Verbal Cues
Two of the most essential parts of communicating with others are actually non-verbal, they are smiling and eye contact.
“The perception of charisma is directly related to the amount of focus given to the other person.” By giving someone positive, non-verbal cues you are making them feel important and listened to.
If you’re socially awkward, smiling and making eye contact can be terrifying. Even for those who are decent at it, sometimes it can be intimidating to give someone eye contact for extended periods of time. Like any other skill, practice makes perfect which leads us to step one.
Step 1: Make direct eye contact with strangers
Think of your morning commute. Use this opportunity to make eye contact with people walking down the street or into your office building.
If you’ve never tried this, start by walking with your chin up.
Most of us walk without thinking. I mean when was the last time you really thought hard about walking? But think about it, when you’re walking are you looking down or up? Do you look at people around you or are you looking down at your phone or the sidewalk?
Walking with your chin up will naturally make it easier to catch people’s gaze. Once you do that, try to maintain eye contact for just a few seconds. Now try this with 5 people in a row on your morning commute Monday to Friday. It seems like a very small step, but this can be transformative if it’s something you’re not accustomed to.
Step 2: Practice smiling
Studies have shown smiling not only makes yourself feel good, but the positive feelings you get from smiling are contagious thanks to mirror neurons! Mirror neurons are brain cells that are activated based on seeing someone else make a gesture or facial expression and it triggers the same emotions you are seeing.
So by smiling you are literally spreading happiness and showing that you’re focused on the other person…remember that thing about charisma?
By practicing your smile on strangers you’ll feel more natural smiling when you want to approach people at your next social event. Thanks to mirror neurons, smiling makes you seem more approachable. Personally, smiling is the best ice-breaker ever I’ve ever used. Making that one small change transformed my social experiences greatly.
Don’t be afraid to practice, they’re only strangers. If they don’t look back at you or ignore you, who cares?!
Tip 2: Trigger emotional responses
Humans are creatures of habit. Our brains are wired to make things easy and efficient for us, so just like we fall into habits like brushing our teeth or plopping on the couch after a long day at work, we also fall into the same social patterns.
Do you have a “go to” response when someone asks you how you are? My guess is that you probably say something along the lines of, “It’s all good,” or “Eh, things are okay…the usual.” It’s something a lot of us do, but it’s important to recognize the power of words.
In the words of Robin Sharma, “Words can inspire. And words can destroy. Choose yours well.”
In line with that powerful thinking, change your “go to” responses to elicit an emotional response from the person you’re talking to. Wouldn’t it be powerful if you could make someone feel excited, happy or carefree simply by changing some of your habitual vocabulary? Well you can. The process is easy.
Step 1: Use colorful language
Simply choose fun adjectives (describing words) to replace words like “good, “usual,” “okay,” or alright.”
You can use words like: “ecstatic,” “fun,” “exciting,” “fabulous,” or “unforgettable.” Bust out a thesaurus and find descriptive words that will step up your conversations.
Step 2: Add some detail
After you’ve replaced your boring responses with words that will intrigue someone, continue the conversation by adding depth.
The “yes and…” technique is a simple trick many improv actors use to add to the story-line in improv acting. In the real world, it helps you add some depth to the conversation by answering their question and then peppering in a short story to generate interest.
You may not always literally say “yes, and…” but it’s a trigger to remind you to answer a question with more than one word.
Formula= Fun adjective + depth
Here are some word-for-word transformations:
- “Things are going okay. How are you?” vs. “Fantastic, I just finished this fascinating book over the weekend. How are you?”
- “I’m doing well, thanks.” vs. “Glorious! I spent my entire weekend outdoors because the weather was so good or [insert something interesting you did. House of Cards anyone?]
- “I just want to get out of here, I’m looking forward to my summer vacation” vs. “I’m ecstatic, did you know I’m going to Italy this summer?”
The point of this exercise is that when you use apathetic or boring words, you’re eliciting an apathetic or boring response from the person you’re talking to. So flip the script and use more thoughtful replies to elicit more exciting emotions!
Tip 3: Ask Good Questions
For those of us who find social situations nerve-racking, one of the easiest ways to ease into them is to simply ask questions.
This is really helpful for people who get nervous about having to keep a conversation going or who feel pressured to be a story-teller or joke-teller to engage in a conversation, which is a misnomer.
Asking questions helps because:
- You get to talk less
- You make the other person feel important
- You make the other person perceive you as charismatic
- It helps you find common ground
I want to introduce the ORCA framework, it’s a way to come up with open-ended questions you can ask people to get them talking. So the next time you’re struggling to engage in a conversation, just think of Free Willy or Shamu!
ORCA stands for:
- Where are you from?
- Where did you grow up?
- Where did you go to school?
- What do you like to do in your spare time?
- Do you have any hobbies?
- What’s something you do almost every weekend?
- Where do you work?
- How long have you been with the company?
- What’s your role?
- What’s on your bucket list?
- What’s your passion in life?
- If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?
This is a simple framework that you can use in almost any conversation to start getting to know the other person. Now when you’re asking these questions it’s important to remember our first tip— using eye contact and smiling are imperative to effective conversations.
Also, make sure you’re not turning into Barbara Walters. Use the 80/20 rule. You have to speak up at least 20% of the time. You do that by finding common ground between you and the person as they answer some of these questions. Perhaps you’ll learn that the other person went to college in your hometown, or that somewhere they want to travel is a location you’ve visited.
People look for similarity and familiarity when they are socializing, so asking questions is a great way to find common ground and make the other person feel comfortable conversing with you.
Conclusion & Free eBook
Communication skills are skills just like learning a new language or instrument. In order to improve the way you communicate and present yourself it’s important to practice these skills.
This is a guest post by Katrina Razavi, founder of CommunicationforNerds.com. If you found this post helpful, visit her site and get your free eBook: 5 Ways to Avoid Awkward Conversations NOW!
Katrina helps people who struggle with social anxiety and social confidence by sharing strategies using change psychology, confidence building and habit transformation. If you're ready to take on your personal challenge, visit the site now!
- Holloway, Pam & Lovas, Michael. Axis of Influence: How Credibility and Likeability Intersect to Drive Success
- Wyeth, Sims. Your Personality Is the Most Powerful Tool You Have. Inc. Magazine.