How to Win Friends

Most etiquette is not new. At it’s simplest, etiquette is but a ritual of traditional protocols called for in social situations. The aim is to make everyone involved feel comfortable.

If you make people feel awkward, you’ve failed the etiquette test. If people feel themselves around you, you’ve passed. However, those that make others feel incredible after leaving their company are the ones that are remembered for their graciousness.

So how do you make others feel fabulous?

Follow the advice of Dale Carnegie, who wrote some easy approaches in his seminal How to Win Friends and Influence People. Here are some of my favorites for making a lasting impression in social situations:

1.     Become generally interested in other people – It’s impossible to fake for very long or very well that you’re interested in another person when you’re really not. In a mingling situation key giveaways that you’re not interested in the person you’re talking to are glancing over their shoulder at other people in the room, one word answers to their questions, asking lots of questions about the food when a server brings by a tray, or excusing yourself to speak with someone else you just saw. Instead, be present with the person and devote all of your attention to the interaction so they feel you want to be there with them in that space for that period of time.

2.     Let the other person do a great deal of the talking – Most people want to be heard, and you should do your best to be an outstanding listener. For many, though, this difficult, because we’ve learned that the one who talks the most is the most important. When trying to make a favorable impression, it’s usually best to listen more than you talk, so aim to do less talking and more listening, even if you’re an expert on the subject you’re discussing. Ask questions and let the other person do the talking, especially in mingling environments.

3.     Be a good listener and encourage others to talk about themselves – When you get the other person talking, start to gather information about who they are and what kind of value they might be able to bring to you in the future. This is not to say you should manipulate a situation to be opportunistic, because that’s quickly and easily apparent to most people. What you should do is discover what values and motivations the other person has, so you can see if it’s going to be a good fit for you to keep them as a friend or colleague down the road.

4.     Talk in terms of the other person’s interests – When you start listening more than talking at cocktail parties, it will be natural to shape the conversation to what interests others, rather than yourself. Asking questions is a great start to making this happen. Even better, direct the questions to drill into the topic your conversation partner has brought up. If you’re going to make a statement, use the most powerful three words for any listener: “Tell me more.”

How to Win Friends and Influence People is easily the most succinct and effective book on cocktail party conversations, and, like most etiquette, it’s simple, classic and timeless.