You walk into a room at a social event where people are mingling and networking near the bar. In one corner of the room, something catches your eye. You notice a small crowd of people gathered around one individual.
She’s not doing much talking, yet it appears that people are gravitating to her circle. You see plenty of smiles and laughter exchanged, heads nodding, and what sounds like interesting and exciting dialogue.
By the open and positive body language displayed in the group, you decide to comfortably approach them to take a listen and join the conversation. After a few minutes, you’ve keenly observed that the woman commanding the conversation is doing so with virtually no charisma and little exuberance. She just seems to know what to say and how to say it.
Turns out, she has mastered the art of connecting with others in new social situations. She used these 5 techniques to be the most interesting person in the room.
1. Be brief and to the point.
In How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, tells us that great conversationalists that capture your attention do three things that boring people never do: They are brief, they are upbeat, and they get to the point without dragging on. But don’t be too brief or eyebrows will raise suspiciously; the point is to speak just long enough for other people to ask you questions that will keep the conversation pointing in your direction.
2. Be curious about the other person.
Several studies suggest that curious people have better relationships, connect better, and enjoy socializing more. In fact, other people are more easily attracted and feel socially closer to individuals that display curiosity. George Mason University psychologist Todd Kashdan, author of Curious?, states in Greater Good that “being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting; that’s what gets the dialogue going. It’s the secret juice of relationships.”
3. Ask genuine questions.
It’s not a secret: People love to talk about themselves. So let them. By drawing attention to them and their story, you ultimately become the interesting one (with some serious active listening skills involved, of course). When asking questions, quality counts. Replace the quintessential (and boring) conversational starters “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” with these:
What’s your story? This is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story, like how someone may have traveled the world to find the meaning of life or drastically changed careers after a paradigm shift.
What was the highlight of your day (or week)? This question puts the conversation on a positive note right off the bat, giving the other person a chance to reflect on something he or she is excited about.
What is one of your most defining moments in life? This great question invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport quicker.
4. Be inclusive.
While working your inner circle, keep an eye out for people milling about, holding their drinks, and looking for someone to talk to. Instead of ignoring this individual in favor of the safety of your inner circle, make the first move: Invite the stranger to join your circle and immediately involve him or her in the conversation by making a mention of something you just heard about the person you were talking to. (which shows that you were listening to that person as well)
5. Add value to the interaction.
When you listen with intent, you may discover a window of opportunity to add value (like offering your expertise or making an important connection). But the reality is this: when people offer to help another person in a conversation, only a small percentage will actually deliver on their promises later. Be that person! People will value your connection even more when you actually provide what you’ve suggested: a contact, a resource, some coaching. When you do, the law of reciprocity kicks in. Famous personal success coach Brian Tracy says, “It’s considered by many to be the most powerful law of human nature.”