How to Make Friends through Personal Connections - dummies

How to Make Friends through Personal Connections

By Dirk Zeller

If you want to make friends and have healthy, successful relationships, you first need to develop characteristics that are welcoming. Begin with a welcoming smile, make a great first impression, and engage in good conversation with effective communication.

Creating successful relationships through community

We all desire to be connected. We want a sense of belonging to a like-minded group of people, which adds purpose to our life and creates the opportunity to serve others. That’s why religious, fraternal, business, and social-cause organizations exist.

A social media platform can bridge the gap between personal face-to-face interactions. It can continue the relationship or dialogue between personal connection opportunities. It can keep you connected with an old friend from high school that you had a previous face-to-face relationship. But in the realm of establishing and growing a new relationship, there are limitations to social media’s ability to personally connect and create friendships.

A disturbing trend is the loss of personal connection between the service provider and customer or client in today’s social-media-based society. The wonderful technological world we live in has led to a loss in true social connectivity. Now, social media companies like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter would likely disagree with my assessment. I’m sure they have exhaustive research to support how their platform increased personal connection. For example, the average number of Facebook friends per user is 338. I would venture to say that out of that 388, you’ve seen less than 20 percent of them in the last few months. The personal connection has been through electronic likes, emojis, and tweets.

Relationship tip #1: Smile

The best way to be welcoming is to smile. A warm, friendly smile can thaw out even the chilliest conditions.

Be genuinely curious about people, their interests, and life experiences. The hardest thing in conversation for some people is to stay curious about whomever they are talking with. Frowning makes this even more difficult. Most of the time, they are thinking about what to say, or they’re waiting for a pause in the conversation to express their views.

If you’re frowning, you cannot be a good listener. Don’t just listen for the break in conversation. Earnestly listen to the speaker at the moment and smile encouragingly.

Relationship tip #2: Make a great first impression

Leading with a smile is a wonderful habit to establish. In addition, leading conversations by addressing someone by name lowers potential barriers. The sweetest sound to any person is their own name. It is truly the most important sound in any language.

Being well dressed and well-groomed plays a big role in making a great first impression. The old adage, dress for success, is still an important habit for anyone who wants to be upwardly mobile or who wants to establish some level of credibility and authority. Now we can think that people should not be judged by their appearance, but for their character and deeds. While that might be true in a utopian world (or if you are a contestant in the blind auditions of The Voice), but that’s not how things work in the real world.

As the son of an English teacher, who was a combination of Ms. Manners, Mother Teresa, and Sister Mary Punctuation, the way you speak and use proper language can lead to a lasting first impression both positively and negatively. Abe Lincoln had a unique way to express this thought, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

The place of proper grammar in verbal communication is missing today. My mother always said, “You can gain a clear indication of intellect, education, and upbringing by proper use of grammar.” Even to this day, it pains me to watch interviews with athletes after the game. My amateur analysis is that 80 percent talk about how “good” they played, hit, performed, or whatever. My mother’s voice is ringing in my head: “You can’t do things ‘good’; you can only do them well.” Thanks Mom!

If you really want to avoid a poor impression, then cut out the flowery metaphors. And what I mean is cursing and course language. Over the last few decades, the discourse in our society has devolved to be more crass and uncouth. The use of swearing is commonplace, but it’s wrong.

We have politicians, business leaders, news commentators, and my personal least favorite, professional speakers and authors, publicly dropping F-bombs. I think some do it because they think it is hip or cool, or it makes their point more dramatic. I personally couldn’t disagree more.

When you use course and crude language, you have instantly lost a percentage of the people you are trying to connect with and influence. There are hundreds of thousands of other words that can be selected in the English language to get your points across and make a quality first impression. There is little need for such crude and boorish language and behavior.

If a word isn’t appropriate in a PG-rated movie, don’t use it when you’re trying to make a good impression.

Relationship tip #3: Engage in good conversation

The essence of good conversation is to talk about things that are interesting to the other people you are conversing with. When we talk in turns about other people’s interests, we draw them into the conversation. After a while, they start to think that you are a wonderful conversationalist.

Smile and conversation
©By Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

A welcoming smile and good conversation are the building blocks of successful relationships.

Finally, to engage in high quality conversations, make the other person feel important. Use active listening skills:

  • Engage in direct eye contact: This shows people that they are important, that you care about what they are saying.
  • Avoid distractions: Avoid the temptation to look at your phone, your watch, or other people in the room. These actions can make the speaker feel less important and destroy the conversation.
  • Open body positioning: Your body can signal boredom or a stand-offish position. Avoid crossing your arms, and use open-handed arm gestures.
  • Engage in feedback: Ask questions or use confirming comments like “I hear you” or “Tell me more.”
  • Demonstrate you are listening: Smile in reaction to the other person. Nodding your head in agreement is also an effective tool.

Being well-read is another way to engage in good conversation. Be a student of what’s happening in the world today. Inject ideas or current events from multiple sources into any conversation.

One of the keys to effective listening is to encourage others to talk. The best way to accomplish that is to ask questions. Most people believe that whoever is speaking is controlling the conversation. The opposite is actually true. Whoever asks the questions is actually the guider or controller of the conversation.