A long, long time ago I was a shy introvert involved in the infamous pick-up community.
It was my first taste of personal development. Someone on a Last.fm forum referred me to Ross Jeffries after I ranted about a crappy fall-out with an ex-girlfriend of mine. Soon after that I read The Game, The Mystery Method, and was an active participant in the online community (I still go to some forums on occasion, mostly Stylelife).
I never considered myself a “Pick-up Artist” – honestly, I sucked at it, and spent more time reading about it then doing anything (people in the community have a name for this: “keyboard jockey”). However, during that time I learned a hell-of-a-lot of useful information from a lot of these guys about social psychology, relationships, attraction, and sex. I developed a new perspective and witnessed these principles first-hand playing out in my relationships, as well as the relationships of those around me.
One of the things I learned was that the most successful guys (and girls) in social settings are the ones who are genuinely curious about others. We pass by so many people on a daily basis who we never think to interact with at a deeper level, but there is nothing stopping us from initiating positive interactions no matter where we are: on the bus, shopping for groceries, on vacation, or walking to class.
Anywhere where there are people, there is an opportunity to turn strangers into acquaintances or friends. Even a friendly joke with the old lady at the cash register is enough to add cheer to an otherwise mundane day.
Today, I try to aim to maximize every social opportunity to the best of my ability. Because you never know where it might lead you. Maybe that old lady at the cash register has an attractive daughter around your age, or maybe her husband runs a company you would like to work for. Next thing you know, a couple of memorable interactions over the course of a month could lead to a new chapter in your life.
Clearly, this isn’t just about “pick-up,” but being open to new opportunities in all areas of life. It’s applicable to both men and women.
More importantly, when you are genuinely interested in people, they notice and they appreciate it. They feel like what they say matters, and they feel valued because of it. Most people when they feel genuinely accepted will reciprocate that energy back. If you show interest in them, they will show interest in you: ask a person for their name, they will often ask for yours; ask a question, and they will often follow with one of their own. And thus the seeds of a potential relationship are sown and it takes no more than a minute out of your day.
People tend to think more highly of those who they know by name and remember, rather than those who are nameless strangers. It’s a kind of familiarity effect, we tend to like things we’ve been previously. However, we can only become more familiar to others if we actively engage them in conversation.
That makes sense, but I can’t get genuinely interested in SOME people
I understand that people can be really diverse and not everyone is going to mesh together with everyone. I’m not saying you have to make friends with everyone, that wouldn’t be practical; however, I think it is a false and limiting belief to think that you can’t find something interesting about a particular person. The more I get to know someone, the more interesting they tend to become. People can be really complex, and sometimes you need to look beyond first impressions or stereotypes in order to discover that person’s depth. Honestly, we can’t truly know a person unless we have a meaningful one-to-one (heart-to-heart) conversation.
A sense of curiosity builds character
The more people you know, the more you know, and thus the more you have to talk about. If you meet someone that manages a bar, but you don’t know anything about managing bars, that is a perfect opportunity to LEARN more about it. Then the next time you meet someone who manages a bar, you already have some common ground. Or, if someone you know is interested in managing bars (or it somehow gets brought up in conversation) you can share the wisdom you learned from that other person. Similarly, if someone shares an interesting story or joke, you can bring it up in future conversations. The more people you interact with, the richer your personality will be. By being more interested in people, you simultaneously become more interesting yourself.
Knowing people = social proof
The more people you know, the larger your social circle will be, and the more people will want to be included in that circle. It feels good to tell people, “I know someone who built their own airplane from scratch” or “I played golf with the CEO of Coca Cola.” If you can share stories about your relationships naturally, without boasting, then you gradually reveal to others that you have a rich and inspiring social life. You know a lot of really cool people, so you must be pretty cool yourself. That’s how a lot of our social logic works.
The little things can have a big influence over time
I don’t expect you to become a social wizard over night. I’ve been reading about this stuff for 5 years and I am just beginning to implement it with some sense of confidence. It takes time to build influence, but it is the little things that can create a snowball effect over time.
If you want, just try reaching out to one or two strangers a week and you’ll begin noticing benefits long-term.
Go out of your way and actively engage someone for no other reason but to know more about what that person is about. Over time this will become a more common part of your day, and the relationships you create throughout that time will be irreplaceable.
How I’ve been using this strategy to build my blog
I am always consciously reaching out to readers of my blog and trying to know them more. I often do it on Twitter, Facebook, and by e-mail. Just last week I had a Q&A session with subscribers of my newsletter. I could only choose a few participants. However, I made it a point to contact everyone who expressed interest in the program, because I wanted them to know that I still cared. I never spent so much time before e-mailing people back, but it was something I truly wanted to do and it felt so rewarding once I was finished.
Don’t believe I practice what I preach? Send me an e-mail and I’ll respond back within 24 hours. We can talk about anything: psychology, productivity, business, relationships, politics, economics, religion…I’m up for it all.
2 people who epitomize this strategy
I believe that whenever we try to materialize a change in our lives it helps to have some mentors to look up to. Two examples I believe that epitomize the “be interested in everyone” strategy are:
Gary Vaynerchuk – For those who don’t know, Vaynerchuk is a business guru who strongly emphasizes the importance of human relationships in marketing and brand management. He currently believes we are going through the “humanization of business” and if you have ever seen this guy speak, you know how magnetic his personality can be (see here). Even after putting together a multi-million dollar business, Gary still spends every possible moment interacting with his fans face-to-face (or tweet-to-tweet) and leveraging relationships in positive and productive ways. His upcoming book The Thank You Economy aims to teach businesses how to be better listeners.
Dalai Lama – The Dalai Lama is 75 years old and he has been touring the globe for most of his life. He is on a never-ending mission to inform the world about unlawful Chinese occupation in Tibet and he embraces just about every speaking opportunity that crosses his path. On top of that, his message rings so strongly because he expresses a universal compassion for everyone, without exclusion. People from all walks-of-life are attracted to the Dalai Lama’s kindness, charisma, humor, and tolerance.
Both of these men share something in common: they place a tremendous value on genuine, human interaction.
I want to be interested, but it doesn’t feel genuine
This is normal. Whenever you do something atypical of your common behavior then it’s going to feel a bit “not you.” I don’t want you to feel forced to do something that doesn’t fit your personality, but I will say that change takes effort, and it may feel a bit uncomfortable at first. Instead of letting the discomfort or fear inhibit you, you should think of it as fuel for exploration. When we embark on the unknown, we learn a lot about ourselves that we previously weren’t aware of.
What if I don’t want to meet new people?
If you don’t want to meet new people, that is fine and completely up to you.
I am not going to be one of those people who say humans are “naturally social creatures.” We have tendencies to be social, but we also go through phases where we don’t want to be social. Sometimes we crave solitude and isolation, just as the philosopher Thoreau did in his social experiment Walden.
Don’t want to meet people? Embrace it and see where it leads you! Want to meet people? Embrace it and see where it leads you!
I happen to see a lot of benefits in being more social and actively engaging people in a consistent manner, but benefits are ultimately subjective and contextual. Maybe you don’t want that right now. Find a balance that keeps you happy, and remember I am only here to give suggestions.
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement from The Emotion Machine: