How to Make Someone Comfortable with You
I’ve always been very interested in the teeny, tiny micro-aspects of conversation. Whether we are speaking with a friend or a stranger often determines the types of language we use, what we decide to disclose and what we keep to ourselves, our body-language and facial expressions, and how we react and respond to what’s been said. I call these aspects micro-conversation, and they are fascinatingly useful!
As a psychologist, I am super interested in how I can manipulate these tools so they are optimal for the person I am speaking to. This means I will try to pick up on whether the other person seems to feel more comfortable talking or listening, whether they rely on humour in conversation, can migrate to abstract topics very quickly, or feel more comfortable with small-talk. Understanding these things requires immediate trial and error, but can lead to eccentric and fulfilling encounters with new people!
As a lover of deep intellectual conversation, I am constantly looking for ways to seamlessly open up new people and groups to discussing bizarre topics. There are many ways to streamline and smoothen conversation, and here are a few tricks I learnt in a recent one:
- If you don’t know what to do with your hands, place them behind your back.
Folding them can cause you to appear closed-off, fidgeting communicates anxious energy, and putting them in your pockets can signify boredom. I’ve had most success recently putting them behind my back so I maintain an open, non-threatening body posture and hide any anxious energy. This way I can fake it til I make it and the other person doesn’t pick up on my nerves.
- Be silly! You don’t know this person, therefore you have nothing to lose. Truth is, people are more scared of you than you are of them. Embarrass yourself and you will find people become your best friend almost immediately!
- Make them laugh. Be playful and random! There is no trick to it. We are all afraid to be the awkward one, so break the barrier and provide a little laugh at your expense! Put on an exaggerated voice during a story or impersonate a character in it. We love entertainment, and being willing to embarrass yourself a little can really get someone at ease.
- Silently think very positive thoughts about your new friend. This one’s my favourite lately and has been bizarrely effective! I’ve discovered that thinking things like “Wow, she’s so intelligent, she speaks so thoughtfully, she has such imagination.” while another person is talking has had amazing results in encouraging the actual conversation. Not only does this trick diminish my own social anxiety by fully occupying my thoughts, but the speaker can pickup from your face that you are responding well and will feel encouraged to keep going! . When I think positive thoughts like this about someone, I can remain present in my listening and remove worry about what I need to say next! Not to mention the conversation turns very warm and supportive.
- Continuous nods and sounds of encouragement go a long way. Demonstrate you are absorbing information, and voila, you have coaxed out a wonderful story, experience or perspective out of someone new!
I hope you can use one of these little tricks in your next conversation. Let me know in the comments if you have anything to add that works for you!