How to be More Personable – Improving on Communication

How to be more PersonableBeing personable and likeable is incredibly important for the prime human. A successful life often calls for collaboration with co-workers, business partners, investors and so on – It frequently demands the ability to win people to your way of thinking in order to outshine competition or influence a situation in your favour. If this persona does not resonate with you, don’t fret – because – as with most of life challenges, this too can be overcome through training and persistence.

In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote a timeless document aimed at sharpening and nurturing people’s communication and social skills. ‘How to win friends and influence people’ has stood the test of time and still resonates strongly with our modern world and the ways in which we conduct business, friendships and life. The book features some of the most basic but also the most relevant strategies for dealing with people in a myriad of environments. The key themes in the book can be summarised in the following three points:

  1. Be sincere, respectful and genuinely empathetic
  2. Other people care most about themselves – use this to your advantage
  3. Don’t argue, criticise or give orders

Of course there are more takeaways that the book offers but these are perhaps the most prominent points in the book and are repetitively featured. This is clearly evident even from sighting the table of contents and chapter titles.

First, let’s focus on point number 1 – Be sincere, respectful and genuinely empathetic.

Being nice to people is sometimes a long-forgotten strategy for being liked, however, it seems like one of the most basic and fundamental principles of communication and influence – simply being nice to someone, makes you instantly more likeable but there can be a trick to it. People tend to see through patronage and fakery, so we must be sincere in our praise and be genuinely empathetic towards the people we interact with if we are to influence a situation or build rapport with another. Although ‘being sincere’ seems impossible to work on it can actually be achieved through working on our ability to be empathetic. Really trying and working hard on seeing the world through someone else’s eyes can shift our perspective allowing us to see the world, the moment or an idea in a completely different light. Shifting our paradigm to that of another makes us more respectful of others ideas, context and words which in turn leaves other people feeling listened to, respected and validated of their own reason and greatness.

Point number 1 even overlaps to a certain degree with point 2 – Other people care most about themselves – use this to your advantage – however for the purposes of substantiating the topic it has been discussed separately herein.

This point in essence suggests that people are selfish, self-centred and egotistical. Whether this resonates with us or not, it is true for every single person to a varying degree. We all care about what people think of us physically, mentally, socially, financially, professionally… and the list goes on. This is one of the most important things to recognise when working with other people. Dale Carnegie considers this like fishing – writing ‘bait the hook to suit the fish’. This implies that although we (like most other people) may prefer to talk about ourselves, we must tailor our conversations or ideas to suit the other person, talking about them, making them feel important and fuelling their ego. Carnegie suggests ways throughout the book of giving people a sense of self importance and here are just a few:

  • Frame your ideas in conversation as though they were the idea of the person you are trying to convince or sell to. If people think that the idea is theirs they will immediately be more inclined to agree with it or be sold on it – much of the time we won’t even have to do the selling if we can invoke point.
  • Remember people’s names – nothing satisfies an ego like someone remembering their name. Remembering someone’s name tells them that they were important enough for you to be remembered – not vaguely but sincerely. Forget someone’s name and they will resent it and people tend to have a way of remembering what others forget about them – so be sharp and focus on remembering a name.

Point 3 resonates with the first two points and is critical in improving your personability. Don’t argue, criticise or give orders.

After discussing the first two points in more detail we can immediately see how much sense the third point makes. Arguing, disagreeing, criticising or challenging another person is to belittle their integrity and cut away at their ego. We should simply avoid doing these things if we want to maintain influence in a conversation or meeting. The only other thing we should stay further away from is arguing, criticizing or belittling someone in front of company, guests or a crowd. Although we should try our hardest to avoid these things, admittedly there are times when criticism and a contradiction of other people’s views is appropriate and in such circumstances we should be careful to use language posed in a way that removes any air of criticism. This is very akin to the point of framing your ideas as though they were the other person’s idea which we discussed earlier. Other useful tricks we can utilise include:

  • Start with a compliment or a positive comment before providing criticism. Avoid using the word ‘but’ when doing this – instead, use the word ‘and’. Consider the following sentences; ‘That was a really good performance but we should work on the ending to make it great’ and ‘that was a really good performance and to make it great we should work on the ending.’ The two sentences say the same thing in essence but the way in which they are presented leaves the person you are criticising feeling positively about the comment.
  • Allow other people to save face. If you start an argument or can see a person getting defensive as the conversation turns to an argument, allow the other person an ‘out’ of sorts by suggesting a compromise to them ever-so-subtly. Nine times out of ten they will take it especially if they realise they were wrong but are unwilling to admit it. One in ten times someone will become stubborn about the issue remaining insistent on being correct – in this case we should simply concede defeat (incorrect or not) and move on.

How to win friends and influence people is well deserving of a read no matter where we are in life or what our circumstances are. We can all improve our influence and hence power by improving in this realm of life.

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