I recently gave a workshop on How to Charm people, it was basically a workshop on the fact that we are living in an ever increasingly splintering world, a world of disconnect and distance. I wanted to see if I could put together a workshop as a sort of reminder of how to connect with people, how to be liked, how to be less self aware and also less selfish and to think of others first and really listen to and value people.
I first gave Charm my definition:
For me it is “the act or the art of having a likeable personality”.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I started off describing what the workshop was about:
“In this day and age, getting ahead depends on who you know as much as what you know.
So it is very important therefore that we all learn the ways and mean of connecting with others and working together as a way to move forward. The people with the best people skills will be the winners in today’s society. These skills cannot be computerised or replicated but they can be learned. In fact, as the world becomes more and more automated we all need to brush up on our connecting skills, the ones that run the world.
In its 2016 The Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum predicts that by 2020 many adults will be employed in jobs that do not exist today. Changes in technology, emerging markets, shifting demographics, and other disruptions will create a wholly new employment landscape. In particular, forecasters predict a shift in sought-after job skills from technical expertise to interpersonal, soft skills. In the years to come, employers will continue to seek out team members skilled at communication, collaboration, and persuasion.”
My Intro speech:
“Once again, I find myself creating a workshop based somewhat on myself. I know that I can come across as someone quite confident and chatty, but that is because I create environments (Imagination Club etc) that allow me to be that way, have something to talk about and be someone to talk to. But, put me in a completely unknown event, be it a wedding or a party or a bar or wherever, and I am lost for words.
Ladies and gentlemen, yes I am shy. Shyer than a shy thing in shyville. Brussels is a city known for its impermanence, and our social infrastructure seems to be built for loneliness, or at least intimacy with an expiration date. So how can we connect with others?”
I then asked the audience the following question:
Who here thinks they are charming and why?
The response was actually a bit of a surprise, no-one shoved their hands up, everybody seemed to be a little shy and reticent, so I knew the workshop was already hitting a spot somewhere.
“I first learned the art of charming by running bars and restaurants. I was the host and greeter and the person to go to for anything in the business and also it was in order to keep people happy and coming back, I had to be charming. (My old boss was the exact opposite, but I guess that is why he employed me). I have often found myself as the frontman or spokesperson for many things over the years.
A lot of us think that we already know how to be nice and charming and greet people, but what we don’t realise is that we all resort to type and by that I mean we run on autopilot and depending on the frame of mind we are in we can come across differently to how we imagine. We also pick up a lot of bad habits. Tonight I hope to show you or reinforce what everybody can and should know. It is nothing new, it is more about being aware and then reaping the benefits by being a nicer person to be around.”
I then asked:
“Who here has been ignored in a shop or a bar and found it uncomfortable? Isn’t it much better when someone says to you, ‘i’ll be with you in a moment’”
A lot of nodding and a few ‘yeah’s, I hate being ignored’
– 8 fabulous words to hear – if only more people did that when you entered their premises.
I went on:
“They say that the first x number of seconds make all the difference. What we will do though is look at some ways you can get to know someone quickly, make a good impression and hopefully charm the pants off of them without them realising you are just as shy as them.
This is not a workshop on how to scam someone, how to fake it until you make it, it is all about being genuine and authentic, but just being aware of how we come across to others. Especially if you are meeting someone important to you in some way.”
Everybody has filters that people select as they form perceptions of us.
Not all of us are born with a lot of confidence meeting new people, so these skills have to be learned and practiced.
If you ever get offered a drink or something to eat when meeting someone, accept it. It reinforces to them that they are a good host, it flatters them.
I then explained some basic rules that I had put together from my experience as a host in many different environments:
Getting to know you: Basic Rules
What is the most important thing that happens in the first few seconds of meeting someone?
First Impressions. This includes, body language, what you are wearing, what you do, what you say, how you move. So make sure you do it with confidence.
Tip 1) Make sure you smile. (Anecdote: Can be cultural, Russians don’t smile much, other cultures too, but in a European context, smiling is considered welcoming)
Tip 2) Shake hands firmly, no wet fish, no crushing either, practice to get it right.
Once you get to the conversation stage:
Tip 3) Be the first to step beyond the superficial.
You don’t have to give your life story, but you can certainly be a little more vulnerable than usual. (think, lovely day today – versus, I don’t relax at events like this – or Interviews scare me, no idea why).
Tip 4) Ask their name as many times as it takes to get it right. Use their name in the conversation, ask again if you forget (even within 30 seconds, just ask) and get them to spell it if unsure, all these things help you remember their name.
Tip 5) Turn off your inner voice, listen to what they are saying, make it about them, it is NOT a competition, you don’t need to out-boast them, you can also repeat what they say (not everything) to show you are listening (that is conversation mirroring).
Tip 6) Dig deeper, watch their body language, if they look uncomfortable, back off a little, be authentic though, be interested.
Tip 7) Don’t look around, over their shoulder, at your watch, yawn, keep saying uhuh, uhuh, uhuh, as they are speaking. Silent has the same letters as listen.
Tip 8) Don’t be over familiar, respect their space, their pace, their speech pattern.
Tip 9) If appropriate, compliment them. (Men beware you don’t overstep the mark with women, smarm turns people off)
Tip 10) Give a light touch, (if you feel it is appropriate, as it is highly cultural and can go wrong, if unsure, don’t do it) on the elbow or the top of the arm, just to confirm a point or when they say something funny, interesting, or outrageous etc. Don’t be an Octopus.
I then got everyone to practice these basics with all those rules in mind:
I said that Introductions can be messy. You often don’t whether or not to shake hands or kiss and how many times, you don’t hear the name, you don’t understand the accent, you just feel awkward.
You walk into a room and just wave…should you have shaken hands? (Yes).
How about walking into the room? Should you sneak in or walk in with your head up high and with confidence? (guess). Should you at least say “Hello Everyone”?
Part 1) The Handshake and the Smile (they go together)
I want you to practice shaking hands with your nearest neighbour. Not too loose. Not too tight a squeeze. Does anyone put their hand on top? Does anyone offer their fingers only? Does anyone hold on for too long or let go too quickly? Try some more. Did anyone miss? Just try again, no need to be embarrassed just laugh it off and try again. Just say, ‘let’s try that again’. Can you give your feedback to that person honestly. Too limp? Hit and miss? The crusher? To short? Too long? Did you smile? No inane grins, just a pleasant smile.
Give me some feedback, give others some feedback.
Part 2 ) Eye contact and giving your name.
I want you to make eye contact, say your name confidently, loud enough to be heard, if it is an unusual name, say it rhymes with… if it is normally misspelled by others, say it, Stephen with a PH not and F or Beverley with an E (L.E.Y at the end), something to make you more memorable. For example, I could say “My full name is Andrew, but you can call me Andy, most people do”.
Part 3) The Kiss (not obligatory – Practice that only if you feel comfortable with it.)
I first explained an experience I had a few weeks previously.
“I made a huge boo boo recently, by thinking someone only wanted to kiss once and then hug. They wanted to kiss 3 times (Dutch) and so our mouths met, it was awkward, but was soon forgotten and we proceeded to hug and laugh it off. We were both embarrassed, but we still managed to keep the connection going. If you are not sure how many kisses is needed, say how many you will give. (unless you know, or have seen how many they gave the previous person. Watch what other people do. You cannot even be sure just by knowing the country, kissing habits are also regional. Observe first if possible.”
If you want to practice, find a partner who doesn’t mind and discuss how many you normally give and why and how. cheek to cheek? actual kiss on the cheek? air kisses?
I then got people to practice taking the conversation one step further and explained an old Improv trick that some people use.
“First, think to yourself what you would and wouldn’t like to talk about. If there’s something that would make you feel uncomfortable, it will probably make someone else feel uncomfortable. It’s also much easier to get a conversation going by being nice, as opposed to trying to sound brilliant. Not to mention that being nice is a great charisma booster anyway. If you can’t think of how to start, or if you hit a lull, use the history/philosophy/metaphor rule. Do whatever you can to avoid awkward silence.”
History/Philosophy/Metaphor – or HPM – is an improv trick people can use on stage any time their mind goes blank. No matter what scene you’re in, no matter what you’re talking about on stage, you can ALWAYS throw out an HPM.
For example, say you and your partner are in a lovely building like this, and you suddenly have no idea what to say. Never fear! You can always rely on the good old HPM:
HISTORY – I wonder what this house was used for in the past. Did a posh family live here with staff or was it just always a business house I wonder?
PHILOSOPHY – I am not very good at making small talk, but I always say ‘if you don’t greet you’ll never meet’ or ‘You never meet anyone by chance. They say the people who come to an event are always the right people. Do you believe that?
METAPHOR – “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
I then put up a flip chart poster with the following example questions:
- If you had a chance for a “do-over” in life, what would you do differently?
- If you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?
- What are you most afraid of?
- What is your biggest dream?
- What was your most embarrassing moment?
- What age do you feel right now and why?
- What is a skill you’d like to learn and why?
- What does a perfect day look like to you?
- Who do you most admire in life?
- What was your most embarrassing moment?
- “How’s your day been so far”
- What’s the best part of your job?
- Do you mind if I ask your advice on something? (obviously think of something first – where can I buy such and such, do you know of anywhere I could find….)
- What made you choose your current job or career? What would you like to do instead if you could choose?
- What has been the best part of your day so far?
- What’s the oddest job you’ve done?
- If you can have dinner with any three people, who would they be?
- What is your your story? or So, tell me your story (not your job, your story)…
(Note: this can make people freeze as if they don’t have a story or are not open to giving a complete stranger their story yet. Try a few gentler questions first).
We then discussed the nightmare scenario of when you get stuck with someone who hasn’t followed this workshop and just won’t stop talking and corners you.
How to get away from someone who just keep on talking or is not interesting or is just too much or you need to circulate, go to the loo or get a drink.
- Excuse me, I must go and mingle, it’s been lovely talking to you
- Go to the loo, wait a few minutes, try to find someone else, if you get stuck again, you can now change the subject.
- Flatter them, ask how they know so much about the subject or topic.
- Try to bring others into the story, get them to tell their story or introduce someone else to your chatterbox
- Change the story into something else. If they are going on about how well they run their business, tell them that you tried it and didn’t like the hours, it was all too much and you preferred the countryside or something. Or if they talk about Fast Cars, you can talk about fast motorbikes or fast airplanes.
Or you could try some humour and you could say something like:
- You look relaxed, do you come these types of events often? Do you have any tips?
- “I hear there is a 10 million Euro reward for the funniest joke tonight” or
- “I was told it was fancy dress tonight, so I have come as James Bond, what do you think?
- I have been tasked with finding out who the Mole it that has infiltrated this event, do you have any idea who it could be?
- I don’t know anyone here, what if we were the only real humans here??
Or just change the subject totally until they get the message
- I like your …… whatever it is (not body parts please…).
- What is the name of that song playing?
- Sorry, my shoes are hurting me (take shoe off?)
- Or just say, excuse me, i’m bored now, must go…
I then gave them some homework that I found quite an interesting exercise:
One of my big things is that sometimes I just don’t ‘get’ some people .I can’t understand the way they think, act, talk, move, their decisions, their thoughts, all are a mystery to me.
So, one way is to actually concentrate on getting to know that person better. I normally avoid close interaction with people I don’t get, as I find it difficult. The only true way to get over this and maybe, just maybe understand them a little better is to get to know them, listen to their stories, for they will have many.
I invite you to write down the names of 3 people who are hard to ‘get’ and I want you to invite them out for a coffee or whatever and just listen to them. Be interested in them, ask questions, ask for their story, listen between the lines. You won’t change them or yourself, but I can guarantee your interactions with them after that will be different. They will feel heard, listened to, valued. Try it
“The best time to find a true friend is before you need one.”
After the conclusion and wrap up I noticed that everyone was settled and chatting to each other at a far deeper level than usual. Of course we now knew each others name and a little more about each other than usual. It meant (to me) that the workshop had done it’s job. I also got a record number of comments and thanks from the participants.
One happy Bunny