Here’s the simple truth: You can’t be financially or professionally successful without superior social skills. Fortunately becoming more social doesn’t have to be difficult or take years to master. Here are 7 tips that will help you be more social in your very next conversation.

And I’m not just talking about the basics—making eye contact and having a good handshake. No, I’m talking about being a social super hero.

I want to teach you how to have a superior social advantage.

And I want to do it using science. How can research help us win social influence?

Here are 7 of my favorite science-based tips for increasing your social success:

1. Start High

Got stuck in traffic on the way to an event? Had trouble with parking? Stressed at work? DON’T MENTION IT! Many people don’t realize that starting on a low or with mention of a stressful event sets the tone for your entire interaction. You want to start on a high to have the best possible interaction. One study put this to the test by tracking room service tips. In this clever study, waiters brought breakfast to rooms in hotels with no windows—so they couldn’t see the weather outside. They tested two scenarios. Can you guess which got a better tip:

  • #1: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you.”
  • #2: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you. Looks like it will be great weather today.”
  • #3: The waiter greeted the guest, “Good morning, I have your breakfast for you. Looks like it won’t be great weather today.”

#2, the waiter who gave good news got a higher tip—26.65% higher! Whether you are interacting with clients or networking events always start with the positive. 

2. Use Like-Dar

Although opposites can attract, we love people who are similar to us. This is called the Similarity Attraction Effect. This theory, researched by Ellen Berscheid and Elaine H. Walster says that we are attracted to people who have traits, values and similarities in common with us.

  • Like-dar (a silly word combination of like and radar that I completely made-up) is the nickname I use for how to approach an initial conversation. When you first begin speaking with someone, make it your mission to find out what you have in common. This could be sports teams, favorite restaurants or people you know in common. Not only will this increase your likability, but it also gives you more to talk about!

The like-dar also helps you focus on the good of people and stay away from internal judgment.

Remember, people are more influenced by someone who is “like them” than someone who is judging them.

Yes: I want to be a social superhero! click to tweet

3. Vulnerable Colored Glasses

Rose-colored glasses are great—positivity can definitely increase your likability. But I want to push you a step further. I want you to use a lens of vulnerability. Whenever you are with someone, think about how you can make them feel more comfortable, at ease and safe. In other words, how can you cushion their vulnerabilities. This is especially important when dealing with difficult people or narcissists.

Narcissists have a deep-rooted fear of being inadequate so they tend to make up for it by over acting and seeking attention. See narcissism through lens of compassion and curiosity. Dealing with more than just narcissists? Here is how to successfully deal with the 4 other types of difficult people:

4. Harness Curiosity

Being curious makes you socially irresistible. As the renowned Dale Carnegie used to say, “To be interesting, be interested.” When you’re speaking with people, think about answering the following questions: 

  • What motivates this person?
  • What is important to them?
  • What energizes them?
  • What do they love to talk about?
  • What shuts them down or closes them off?
  • What do they value?

Make it your goal to answer these questions about every person you are speaking with to give you a social mission. Before you know it, the person will find you fascinating even though you have been trying to learn about them!

5. Show Your Inner Awesome

Confidence is attractive. Confidence is charismatic. Confidence is contagious. Body language is a great way to show and feel confident. Most people go on interviews or dates and only think about the words they are going to say. They think about what they are going to say, but rarely think about how they want to say it. Nonverbal communication makes up at a minimum of 60% of our communication ability–some say its up to 93%! So if you only focus on your words, you are only using 40% of your ability. You have to get in the habit of portraying confidence with both your verbal and nonverbal content.

socially successful

6. Make Love to Your Weaknesses

Do you wish you could read people’s minds? Let me save you the trouble. Most people, most of the time are desperately trying to hide their weaknesses. They are wondering what people think of them, trying to make a good impression and hide vulnerabilities. But, research shows that hiding weakness does the OPPOSITE of making people like you. In one study of job interviews, researchers found that when candidates mentioned positive traits or achievements early on in the interview, they were rated as less likeable than candidates who admitted to weaknesses early on in the interview.

  • What the what!? Yes, you read that right. Admitting to weaknesses, instead of strengths actually makes us more relatable, more trustworthy and more human.
  • The research found the best possible combination is admitting vulnerabilities early on and achievements later.

7. Be a Social Lubricant

A lubricant eases friction and makes people come together seamlessly. People who are incredibly socially successful know how to make all of their interactions smooth. They facilitate conversations, introduce people and make connections. The easiest way to do this is to use my favorite Killer Conversation Starters. We need to stop using boring social scripts and encourage engagement and deeper connection. Research has shown that using intriguing conversation topics releases dopamine in the brain. This causes people to feel pleasure and liken your interaction to receiving a prize or reward.

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Hi, I'm Vanessa!

Lead Investigator, Science of People

I'm the author of the national bestselling book Captivate, creator of People School, and human behavioral investigator in our lab.

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