Getting others to like you may sound shallow, but it's actually one of the most important skills you can hone in both business and your personal life. At work in particular, success depends in large part on whether you can put that potential new client at ease; or inspire trust in your direct reports; or get your manager to want to help you.
Robin Dreeke can assist. Former head of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Program, he's the author of It's Not All About "Me": The Top Ten Techniques for Building Quick Rapport with Anyone. He is, in other words, an expert on how to get people to like you quickly.
Here are 7 of his top tips on how to do that:
1. Listen without judging
Dreeke says the single most important skill in getting others to like you is to "[s]eek someone else's thoughts and opinions without judging them." You don't have to agree with the person. But people like you when they sense you want to understand them and their world.
"The number one strategy I constantly keep in the forefront of my mind with everyone I talk to is non-judgmental validation," says Dreeke. "People do not want to be judged in any thought or opinion that they have or in any action that they take."
2. Stay in the moment
Thinking about what you're going to say next in a conversation (rather than being present) is is a fast way to kill rapport. Because believe it or not, people can tell.
"Listening isn't shutting up," says Dreeke. "Listening is having nothing to say. There's a difference there. If you just shut up, it means you're still thinking about what you wanted to say. You're just not saying it."
Instead, Dreeke suggests, do this: "[A]s soon as you have that story or thought you want to share, toss it. Consciously tell yourself, 'I am not going to say it.' All you should be doing is asking yourself, 'What idea or thought that they mentioned do I find fascinating and want to explore?'"
Then ask them about it.
3. Ask them 'the best question'
No one likes small talk, whether at a networking event or a dinner party. Dreeke suggests this instead:
"A great question I love is challenges. 'What kind of challenges did you have at work this week? What kind of challenges do you have living in this part of the country? What kinds of challenges do you have raising teenagers?' Everyone has got challenges. It gets people to share what their priorities in life are at that point in time."
4. Ask for advice
Asking for advice dramatically increases your likeability--especially at work. According to Adam Grant, author of Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success:
"Studies demonstrate that across the manufacturing, financial services, insurance, and pharmaceuticals industries, seeking advice is among the most effective ways to influence peers, superiors, and subordinates. Advice seeking tends to be significantly more persuasive than the taker's preferred tactics of pressuring subordinates and ingratiating superiors. Advice seeking is also consistently more influential than the matcher's default approach of trading favors."
Don't trade favors; ask for advice.
5. Ask whether it's a good time
Another quick win. Research shows that asking, "Is now good for you?" or, "Got a minute for me to run something by you?" increases the likelihood the person will say yes--and want to listen to what you have to say.
According to the study, "The results showed that compliance rates were higher when the requester inquired about respondents' availability and waited for a response than when he pursued his set speech without waiting and inquiring about respondents' availability."
6. Meeting a stranger? Tell them you've only got a minute
While it might seem counterintuitive, this hack makes sense, since no one wants to get stuck talking to someone when they don't really want to. In Dreeke's words:
"When people think you're leaving soon, they relax. If you sit down next to someone at a bar and say, 'Hey, can I buy you a drink?' their shields go way up. It's 'Who are you, what do you want, and when are you leaving?' That 'when are you leaving' is what you've got to answer in the first couple of seconds."
For example, if you want to connect with someone at a networking event, try, "Hey, I'm heading out the door in a minute, but what was your favorite part of the presentation tonight?"
7. Use the right body language
Practically every study in the known universe on body language says that a genuine smile is the fastest and most reliable way to put someone else at ease. Don't fake it, but don't forget about it, either.