Back last year I attended a wonderful conference for collegiate hackathon organizers called Hackcon out in Estes Park, Colorado. I used this event to step outside of my comfort zone and meet new people. Not a few, not some, but all: I attempted to meet AND remember everyone at the conference. This was upwards of about 400 people at the event.
My challenge here was to meet more people in 2.5 days than I would in a month's time. I don't expect everyone to be like me and try to meet a huge number of people. Besides, we should always remember it is the quality of the relationships we make and not the quantity that matters. However, my intentionality in making friends at HackCon actually provided a lot of great lessons about being very effective at meeting and remembering people. Here are some tips that you can use whenever you meet someone.
"Actions speak louder than words."
You can do so much with as little as a smile. You and the person receiving the smile will feel great from it. This doesn't mean go out of your way to make a very EXTREME smile to every person. Let it be organic. Let it be the result of the positivity you get from them or how they can make you feel. When you smile with someone, it is contagious.
A lot of people will say they can't "just" smile. It isn't easy; smiling uses muscles in your face and just like any muscle you have to exercise it. A technique that has helped me is just thinking about things that I really enjoy and just passively smile without having to direct it at someone. How do you think Kimmy Schmidt does it?!
"Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language."
There is power in a name. When you say someone’s name, it shows to the person that you actually remember who they are. When we study new material we have to consistently go over it to remember it, and the same is true with names. It is easy to remember the place you met someone, but a name is pretty challenging when we don't use it often.
There are a few tricks to help yourself keep track of names. Some people find it helpful to repeat the person's name in their head several times to make the association. I try to listen to what they are passionate about and make something clever out of it to associate it back with their name. Try the funny icebreaker exercise that people do where you have to say a word describing you that has to start with the first letter of your name. It works practically every time for me. Just think, "Personable Prince. What would be yours?
Think of this like going to your favorite coffee shop or restaurant where the server remembers your name & order. You feel great that someone recognizes you out of the crowd of people they come across in a day. However, a lot of us on the other end never ask the server's name. Isn't that odd? We tend to be really happy when our world is centered around us and people notice us but we have to reciprocate. A good piece related to this is David Foster Wallace's graduation speech "This is Water". Show you actually care and want to acknowledge this person.
Next time you meet anyone, ask them their name and say it when you leave. Remember they are a human who wants to be recognized just like you. You can literally make someone's day by just simply saying their name. In the memorable words of Walter White
"Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."
Steven R. Covey
Out of all three tips, this one is the hardest to do for people. We have two types of listening: "passive" and "active." The difference is how engaged you are.
Passive listening is when we hear what someone says. Imagine being in class and your teacher is leading an exam review. With passive listening you don't do anything but take in information. Active listening is where instead of just taking in ideas from your teacher you actually internalize what is being said. You engage the teacher with questions that reiterate points they brought up and try to get a deeper meaning. When you come to the exam, you will see that you remember the conversation you had more with active listening and can easily associate things with your experience.
The importance of active listening holds true with conversations with people as well. You need to take what someone says and understand it in their frame of reference. Listen to what they are passionate about and ask more questions about it and get them to share more. You also have to show your genuine interest in it. They aren't just going to talk to someone who doesn't care to hear what they have to say. You never know when this person's insights may come in handy, and discovering those insights starts with simply listening. When you actively listen you learn more about someone and you learn what you share in common. You never have to worry about forgetting who someone is because you know so much of them.
Some tips that I have may sound a bit odd but I assure you they can help. When I meet someone new I tend to ask them their name and then ask them to tell me what they are passionate about. With that, I tend to remember that someone is passionate about X and so their name is so-and-so. Some people even write these people's names down and their passion to help them remember. Another tip that helps is the nonverbal portion of your communication that helps you listen. Two things that work really well is slightly lean in and make eye contact with them. Your body will actually be in a mode of listening and engaging them. When your body feels engaged, your mind will also. This happens almost involuntarily when we have positive attitudes towards someone and research shows that we tend to talk more when this happens too.
When these three small acts are put into place, you will achieve big wins into meeting & remembering people. I have found these to be acts that really make all parties remember each other. I challenge you now to go and implement these small acts in the people you deal with already and see how much different your experience is. Being conscious and intentional about these will help you grow. I hope you use these well, my padawan! If you want to learn any more amazing things about making friends, check out extremely useful books such as "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.
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