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I am pretty good at faking it.

People that don’t know me well are often shocked when I admit I am an introvert.  I am pretty good at pretending to be an extrovert.  However, I still have a ton of social anxiety.

I have a hard time with silence so I will talk too much to keep from sitting there quietly.

Even though I have a genuine interest in people, I struggle to find good questions to ask.

I get tongue-tied when someone asks me a hard question I am not sure how to answer.

Social situations and meetings take a lot out of me.

However, a key part of business and life is winning people over.  It is being charming, persuasive and a leader.

Here are my tips and tricks to help you do this a bit better:

1. Think of rejection as a game.  

No matter how awesome you are not everyone is going to accept you or like you.  Someone You are awesome, but being awesome does not always add up to acceptance.  Inevitably someone isn’t going to accept you or like you.  And if you are anything like me, this was something you dealt with early in your life (I was such an outcast I used to play bridge in the faculty lounge to avoid the teasing).

The fact of the matter is, rejection is part of life.  And unless you can get past the rejection you will never take risks and will miss out on potentially amazing opportunities. Learning to think about rejection as a game and just a part of life can help those moments seem less scary and catastrophic.  Jonathan Gurrera actually wrote a great post on his approach to this gamifying rejection.

2. Establish yourself as someone worth knowing.

I get a lot of emails from people, most of them want something.  They want me to blog about their product, answer some questions, and share their link.  I try to respond to everyone and help as many as I can.  However, I will say I am a bit biased and don’t treat all inquiries equally.  

I am more likely to help someone who has connected with me before (commented on my blog, shared with me on twitter, or added value to me in some other way) or because they seem important (they have a website, blog, or large twitter following).  I am looking for is a signal.  What signals are showing?  If I google you will I be impressed or will I just find irrelevant set of results?

(BTW, this also applies to how you look.  If you look messy and unkempt you may not give off a successful you-want-to-know-me vibe.  Take time to fix up your appearance and try to look attractive.)

3. Demonstrate social proof.

This is a classic technique to help build credibility and trust quickly and is the reason people ask for “introductions” to other people. If there is someone you want to know, the best way to get to know them is through someone else – ideally someone they know and trust (all introductions are not created equal).

If haven’t yet done #2, this option is a great way to help.  Bring along someone who has established themselves as a person worth knowing.  And if you don’t have someone to align with?  Then start with other people in the same position as you and are on their way up.  Align yourself with people you know are going to accomplish amazing things, and as they grow and become successful you will grow alongside of them.  Pretty soon you will both be people others want to know.

You are the average of your 5 closest friends.

4. Find common ground.

Don’t start conversations with confrontational subjects, instead begin with something agreeable.  People are more likely to be persuaded and open if they primed with a message they agree with.

Jing Xu and Robert Wyer conducted a research study where they tested people with Democratic affiliations to a speech by Obama, and Republicans to a speech by John McCain, in both cases when the participants were more easily swayed by an ad when they heard a messaged they agreed with beforehand.

If the conversation starts off on the wrong foot, then focus on steering things back to neutral (or hopefully positive) territory.

5. If you ask for something, let them know they have a choice.

There are lots of techniques to persuade people, but one of the more useful (and less evil) ones is simply to remind people they have a choice.  

“The answer is: the ‘But You Are Free’ technique. This simple approach is all about reaffirming people’s freedom to choose. When you ask someone to do something, you add-on the sentiment that they are free to choose” (source)

By reminding your conversation partner that they have the choice to say no it can almost double your chances they will say yes.

6. But don’t give them too many choices.

If you haven’t heard of the Paradox of Choice, it is essentially that the more options you give someone the less likely they will make a decision.  This means if you want to ask someone for a follow-up meeting or an introduction focus your request.  Don’t send them 7 days and times you can meet, just send them 2-3.  

This also applies to choices in projects, products, and prices.  Really anything.  Limit the options and it will make it easier for people to make decisions.

7.  Create positive associations – with yourself.

The human brain is a pattern matching machine and it maps contextual things that are not always related together.  When you meet and interact with others what sort of pattern do you want them to match with you?  A good one, right?  

Try to listen more than you speak.  Ask open-ended questions that are likely to elicit positive responses and emotions.  Some of my favorites:

  • What has been your greatest success or accomplishment this year?

  • When was your last vacation?  Where did you go and what did you do?

  • What is a book you read that left a big impression on you?

And if you have other ideas of good questions, be sure to leave them in the comments.

In the event the conversation turns to negative topics, express real empathy and concern.  And try to turn the conversation back to positive.  Hugh Rank’s research shows that pattern recognition is even more effective with repetition.

“Our brains are excellent pattern-matchers and reward us for using this very helpful skill. Repetition creates a pattern, which consequently and naturally grabs our attention.”

8. Tell a story.

As computer scientists and engineers many of us lean towards data.  However, in a Carnegie Mellon University study in 2007 by Deborah Small, George Lowenstein and Paul Slovic showed that stories had a more memorable effect than data.  If you want to be memorable and get your message across, try telling a tale that will appeal to their emotions, not just logic.

And if you want to build trust be authentic. Vulnerability is powerful (just look at the success of Jessica Simpson and other reality stars).  None of us really know what we are doing, and we all make mistakes.  Be willing to open up and share others and people will feel more inclined to share and take part in your journey.

9. Be confident – fake it until you make it.

And finally, if you aren’t comfortable do your best to put on a happy face and fake it. A study from Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Behavioral Decision Research showed that confidence will win over accuracy when it comes to earning the trust of other people.

Eventually people will start scoffing at the fact that you claim you are not an extrovert.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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If you want more, here is a video on the science of persuasion – but feel free to leave more details in the comments.

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