Think back to a time you first met a particular person; someone memorable, charismatic, successful. Quite likely this person looked you right in the eyes as they were introduced, and used your name frequently in the ensuing conversation. Regardless if the meeting was for professional or personal purposes, this person likely asked you questions about yourself, your job, interests, opinions, and appeared genuinely interested in your responses. The reason you remembered this person, and with high regard, is because we humans just love talking and hearing about ourselves.
A recent Harvard study claims that humans experience a rush of dopamine when talking about ourselves, similar to that felt when talking about food, sex, and money. When someone gives us the opportunity to talk about ourselves we subconsciously associate that person with positive feelings. This tells us that in order to make introductions with new people count, we must focus our efforts on being more concerned with them than with ourselves. Almost as a natural reflex, many young professionals often worry more about what they are saying, how they look, their handshake, etc., than focusing on the person they are meeting. During that important introduction, key moments can be easily lost, names forgotten, and first impressions ultimately tarnished. Read below to find out some notable tips for owning that important introduction.
What’s in a name? Everything!
We all know that remembering names when being introduced to a new person is important, and yet, how often do you hear people say: “Oh, I’m so terrible with names.” You can make this work in your favour, giving you a leg up on the competition, by simply making a conscious effort to be the one who remembered that prospective client or potential employer’s name. And that is really the simple key – being conscious of that moment when people first say their name. Don’t fret over how you are going to come off; it’s very unlikely that you will ever forget how to say your own name. Let your mouth do that job while you use your brain to listen carefully, and then come up with a strategy for remembering. Two tricks that we find most useful are alliterative cues, and repeat, repeat, repeat.
Once someone has offered you his or her name, immediately engage in direct eye contact and respond with it: “Emily, it’s great to meet you.” Then quickly come up with a simple word that starts with the same two letters of their name, that can act as physical cue, such as “Emily with the emotional smile,” “Brandon with the brown belt,” “Vincent with the vice grip,” etc. Continue on in the conversation using their name as often as possible. Repeating their name will not only help you to remember, but will also showcase to the other person that you are listening to what they are saying and that you think they are important.
Tell me about you.
When others genuinely enjoy meeting you, you become memorable and someone they will likely want to meet again. As we have learned, one way to create this pleasant and lasting impression is to engage others in conversation about themselves, raising dopamine levels in the brain and rewarding with a heightened mood. Again, as if by default, many YPs are often quick to feel the need to let others know who we are, why we are at the event, why we are important, etc. While this part of the conversation is certainly necessary in order to make a true connection, to get someone’s attention in the first place they have to like talking to you.
One of the most effective methods to get people genuinely interested in you is, of course, to show genuine interest in them. The easiest way to do this is by asking questions: “Ben, your position sounds so intriguing, how do you like it?” “Tell me about this great suit you are wearing Sara, where did you find it?” “This is such an interesting venue, what do you think Jacob?” While your questions may be quite surface-level at first, just be sure to ask about things that you are actually interested in, otherwise your tactics will very quickly become transparent.
By making the effort to remember names and ask people about themselves, you will not only position yourself in a positive light, but will also be more open to learning new things and creating deeper connections. Don’t think of these strategies as methods of manipulation, but as ways of really strengthening your interpersonal skills.