There’s not a word yet, for old friends who’ve just met.― Jim Henson
I knew this guy in college who had a magnetic personality. Actually, I still know him. He’s a good friend of mine. But, I first got to know him well in college. He attracted people everywhere he went, like moths to a flame. It was amazing to me how easily he started conversations with unfamiliar people about everyday topics, and within minutes, was joking and chatting with them like they were old friends.
I was a bit on the shy side, and didn’t really get too talkative with people until I got to know them well. Of course, since I didn’t chat too often with people, it made it hard to get to know them. I envied my friend’s ability to be so free from self-consciousness and wanted very much to be like him. I began to watch him closely (without being too creepy) to try to figure out what it was that he did that made him so irresistible to other people.
In my pursuit of this magical ability to attract people to me, I began to read a lot of self-help books about positive self-image and people skills. As I was doing this, and observing my friend, I began to understand what it was that set him apart from others.
Why is it that some people just seem to attract others? What are they doing that is different than everyone else? Is it something you’re born with, or can this ability be learned? I believe that anyone can become this type of attractive individual.
Whether you’re trying to lead a group of people, establish a reputation as someone who’s got it all together, or you’re just trying to make more friends, there are two traits that will make your desire come true. I call them “traits”, but really they’re more like skills. They can be cultivated and developed if you don’t currently have them in abundance.
The first is confidence. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The difference, I think, is arrogance tries to impress others, while confidence doesn’t worry about whether others are impressed or not. You have to be comfortable in your own skin to be confident.
In college, I wasn’t quite there yet. The reason I didn’t initiate conversations with people I didn’t know was because I didn’t think they’d be interested in talking to me. Even though I had a broad range of interests, I thought that I wouldn’t have anything interesting to say to someone, and any conversation I tried to start would become awkward and strained. So, I just avoided the situation by hanging out with people like my friend, who took care of the conversational heavy lifting for me. I could chime in occasionally without being forced to carry the conversation myself.
I started to understand more and more that everyone feels this way (at least a little bit), due to the fact that we project our self-image onto other people. We assume that what we perceive as faults in our makeup are readily evident to everyone we meet. What I came to realize and believe is everyone feels this way to some extent or another. And, the person you’d like to talk to, but can’t because you’re too shy? They have the same types of hang-ups that you do. They’re most likely so obsessed with their own shortcomings that there’s no way they have the time or attention to pick up on yours.
What separated my friend, and other people with supreme self-confidence, from people like me was the fact that they knew this secret. They knew that the other person was most likely focused on themselves, so there was no reason to worry about their own shortcomings. This gave them the freedom to display the second characteristic that’s so important to building relationships.
The second trait is empathy. If, like I said previously, most everyone feels a little self-conscious around other people, then it’s helpful to be able to get them past that feeling. You want other people to feel comfortable around you. In order to do that, you have to understand these subconscious hang-ups that people have and work around them to draw the other person out. Make them feel at ease in your presence by finding common interests, or find something that they can speak intelligently on. If you can master the art of helping other people look and feel like experts on something when they’re around you, you’ll never be short of friends. People like to feel like they’re adding to the conversation. Here’s a hint: if you’re having trouble finding something to talk about, ask questions about them. Everyone’s an expert on themselves. :)
So, confidence and empathy. It sounds more intimidating than it is, but I understand it’s tough sometimes to take that first step, especially if you’re not used to doing it. Begin to make a habit of talking to people everywhere you go. If you’re at the grocery store, talk to the person in front of you in the checkout line. In the doctor’s office, talk to people waiting around. The only way you’ll condition yourself to talk to people and get over your fear of it is to do it frequently. By the time you’ve gotten over the fear, it’ll be a habit. And good habits are hard to break.
What do you think gives people a magnetic personality?