We grow up with the impression that being ourselves is all that matters. While Donald Trump may live by this motto, likeability – of rather, lack thereof – is a strong determinant for business success. This is especially true in the startup world, where growing your business is guided by your ability to connect and work together with new colleagues, fellow entrepreneurs, customers, VCs, etc. Befriending people from all walks of life is an indispensable element of the startup world, and there’s simply no way around it. While we don’t think you should completely change your personality, it is helpful to understand how to leave a positive first impression to put you on the right path.
Living in a world where everyone’s ‘bad with names’ makes it seem okay to forget someone’s name as soon as you’ve heard it. But using names in the right context can help you go far in leaving a lasting impression. For instance, saying “goodbye, [Name]” seems like a small gesture, but it shows a great deal of respect for the person. Tip: Repeating someone’s name right after they say it helps with your ability to take it in. E.g. “Hi, I’m Emily.” “Emily, nice to meet you.”
You saw this one coming, and the ‘they’re doing it too’ mentality just doesn’t work in this situation. Looking at your phone, even if briefly, is extremely rude in any conversation. That Snap can wait.
Your significant other might be on to something. Not actively listening in a conversation is a big no-no to which many of us are guilty, even if it’s not intentional. When meeting new people for the first time, many of us tend to think about what we’re going to say next. In the process, we lose out on what the person is really trying to communicate. Staying fully aware, and taking in discrepancies like the person’s tone, is evident in your behavior and important for valuable exchanges.
This is one that our mothers have been reminding us of since we first walked into preschool. Again, a self-centered attitude may not be intentional, but there’s always a place and time to share your idea or pitch. Too much self-promotion, or attention-seeking behavior is a massive turnoff, but asking questions or advice, and offering insightful responses shows that you value your conversation with the person. You may just learn something in the process.
Being ‘genuine’ is a subjective assertion, but it really just comes down to being truthful to yourself and the other person. Instead of creating the impression you want the other person to have, or saying what you think they want to hear, try to see them as the well-informed and mature person they are and be yourself. Removing those pretenses speaks volumes when you really want to connect someone, whether it’s collaborating on a project or just making a new friend. Being consistent in your behavior, whether it’s a networking event, social, or job interview, is also an indictor of a genuine person. Putting up a front often stems from personal insecurity, so it’s important to reflect and understand how to overcome them.
Sometimes, talking about the weather seems like the only way to start an awkward conversation, but it gives off the impression of disinterest, lack of insight, and laziness. Following from the above, listening and being genuine naturally leads to valuable conversation. When you feel that you’re struggling, try asking questions about the other person to get the conversation started. Keep an ear out for detail, and the personal things they disclose.
Non-sexual touching is a powerful tool for communication when done correctly. For example, lightly touching a friend on the forearm is comforting, and evokes genuine concern, affection, or interest.
While certain likeable characteristics don’t come easy and can takes a lifetime to develop & perfect, being mindful of these aspirational traits can go a long way.
Understand where you’re lacking, and using that self-awareness for improvement is what it’s all about.
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