In my line of work - first as a correspondent and host with top television networks and today as a professional speaker - it's critical to be able to connect with anyone and everyone.
When I was a broadcast journalist, I had to form an instant connection with anyone I was interviewing, from a top celebrity to the CEO of a billion-dollar company to a mother who lost her son to gun violence.
These days, as a professional speaker who delivers keynotes to as many as 3,000 people at a time, this means giving a speech that resonates with audiences of all ages, across various industries, with different types of personalities.
Over the years, people have asked me regularly about this: What's the best way to connect with people from different walks of life for establishing trust and building strong working relationships?
As a borderline introvert, this has never been easy for me. But I've learned five simple things I can do to establish a quick but meaningful connection with others.
1. Give them the most valuable thing that you can
Think about your last face-to-face conversation with someone. Whether it was in the office, over a meal, or at a business conference, odds are that one of you had a phone in your hand, especially if you consider yourself shy and use your phone as a social crutch. During the conversation, you might've looked at your phone on a few occasions to check email, see who sent that new text message, or scroll your social media feed. Sadly, this has become commonplace.
When you check your phone, even for just a second, this subtle (or not so subtle) action tells the other person that you're not fully present. That there's something more important than them and the conversation you're having. That, put simply, you don't care. I invite you to put away your phone and give people your undivided attention. It will go a long way in building trust and showing that you care. The most valuable thing you can give someone is your attention.
2. Confirm that communication has been received
If you're shy when it comes to connecting with others in person, confirming that communication has been received is a powerful tool to add to your arsenal. When speaking with someone, all you have to do is repeat or paraphrase back to them what they said. This doesn't require trying to be clever or thinking of something interesting to say. You just have to be fully attentive and listening intentionally.
Television journalists use this technique on a regular basis. Say a journalist is interviewing an expert who says something like, "We were able to cut the budget by $100,000." A standard response from the journalist will be, "$100,000?," repeating what was said. The expert will typically follow up with something like, "Yes, $100,000. When we did our audits, we found there was a lot of waste across the organization. Now we're able to save that money and put it towards other important matters." All that just from repeating "$100,000." (And yes, a good journalist would respond to the last statement with, "What other important matters?")
3. Influence a conversation without saying a word
We've all been there. You're having a conversation with someone and you're answering a question they asked you. However, you're getting no response from them as you speak. They look at you blankly. Or, maybe their eyes are looking at anywhere but you. Maybe their body is angled away. They're giving you no energy back and you're starting to lose your confidence. Don't let this be you.
You can positively influence a conversation without saying a word. When someone is speaking to you, directly face them with open body language. When they say something you agree with, if you'd like, you can make a point or say something surprising. But you don't have to. If you nod your head, widen your eyes, or smile, this lets the person know you're paying attention.
Test this in the next conversation you have with someone. First, don't give them any energy back, just look lethargic and uninterested and watch how their energy fades. In another conversation, nod, smile, and use your eyes to show interest. Notice how the other person's energy naturally picks up. You can influence a conversation without even saying a word.
4. Ask for help/expertise/feedback
If you're looking for a way to easily connect with someone, one of the best ways to do this is to ask for their help, feedback, or expertise. By doing this, you put them in the position of being the expert. People love being the expert, and even more, in my experience, people love to talking about their journeys and solving the problems of others.
For introverts who are wary of networking, this is a great way to build rapport with someone, have them take a genuine interest in you, and learn something valuable along the way.
5. Be Inclusive - replace "I" and "me" with "Us" and "We" to create a deeper connection
The next time you have a conversation with someone, listen for how often you use the words "I" and "me." If you use these words often, odds are you' are creating a disconnect between you and the other person. Your opportunity is to be inclusive by instead using words like "we" and "us." "I" and "me" creates distance. "We" and "us" brings people together and makes them feel part of something bigger. Along those lines, Further, being inclusive also means listening more than you talk.
Of course, the most critical and most important part of learning to connecting with others is being genuine. Whatever you do, it must come from a genuine place. If not, people can sense it and the opportunity is lost.
So whether you're in introvert or extrovert, next time you find yourself in a conversation, remember to just be sincere and attentive. You'd be surprised how far this can take you in building long-term relationships.