Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to get people to think that you like them

This is a seven minute talk I gave at a barcamp about 18 months ago.

I picked the wording of this title carefully. It doesn’t matter whether you actually like these people. Some people you genuinely like might not know that you like them, and most of the time it’s better if people you don’t like think that you do.

I’m going to tell you five rules for making people think that you like them. This wasn’t an exhaustively researched study, these are just the things that work for me.

  1. Use people’s names. Every. single. day.
  2. When you’re listening, show that you’re listening.
  3. Ask for help
  4. Doubt your assumptions
  5. Don’t email angry

Starting from the top. Use people’s names. It will take some extra effort to learn names, but it definitely pays off. People love to hear their own name. It makes them feel unique and valued. In “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Dale Carnagie claims that a person’s own name is their favorite word in the world.

I had a boss who’d never say “hi Tyler” when we passed each other in the hall. Apparently he thought I was a great employee, but I was never convinced he genuinely liked me. Why? He never acknowledged me as an individual. Use people’s names.

Now let’s talk about listening. Listening is a whole body activity. Most of us are facing computers most of the day.  When talking to someone, turn away from the computer toward them. Use your whole body to show that you’re listening. Don’t just turn your head, turn your shoulders and arms. This demonstrates that your full attention is on them and that in turn makes them feel like you value them.

On to number three: ask for help. This one is a bit counter-intuitive. People, in general, like helping you. For example, a couple of weeks ago Ray sent me a message asking me to talk at this barcamp. I immediately thought to myself: Hey, Ray thinks I’m a smart guy and a good speaker. I didn’t think “ugh, I’ve been inconvenienced”. I thought: I feel valued.

There’s another cool part of this approach. It’s called cognitive dissonance. I may or may not like Ray, but here I am, presenting like he asked me to. Now, I’m going to tell myself: Tyler, you’re not a stupid person. You aren’t dumb enough to go talk in front of a bunch of people for someone you don’t like. You must like Ray. Yes. You must.

Let’s review what we’ve covered so far:  Use people’s names. Listen with your whole body. Ask for help. Two two go!

This next one’s tougher to pull off. Doubt your assumptions about people. Engineers tend to be judgmental people. I’m willing to bet everyone in this room could rattle off a couple names of people they think are morons. Who do you work with that you think is a moron? <pause> The way you think of them will affect how you act around them, and will (despite your best attempts) show through in your interactions with them.

The people may be bad at their jobs, or they may not. But, every now and then ask yourself: What if they missed the deadline because their spouse is sick? What if they need help but aren’t sure how to ask for it? What if they’re not actually morons?

Here’s the last one, it’s pretty simple: If you’re frustrated, don’t email about it. Nobody has ever been convinced that they were wrong by an angry email. If you have an issue with someone, call them. Walk to their office. Write a letter and throw it away. Anything but email. If you are angry, do not email.

There you go. Use people’s names. Listen with your body. Ask for help. Doubt your assumptions. Don’t email angry.

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