Whether you’re negotiating a business deal or making a new friend, there’s a lot of value in getting someone to open up to you. We asked master interviewer and comedian Jay Leno, along with nine Advisors in The Oracles, for their best tips to do just that. Here’s what they said.
1. Give the other person your full attention — and be kind.
Approach life like you aren’t the smartest person in the room. Then you’re more likely to shut up, listen, and pay attention. Too many people don’t listen. They wait for others to stop talking so they can speak. Be genuinely interested in others, and give them your full attention.
I’ll never forget talking to a friend who was a big celebrity at the time. When a fan approached him for an autograph, he gave it to them without even turning around to look at them. I saw the hatred on his fan’s face. When my friend told me that they were lucky to get an autograph, I responded that he was the lucky one to be asked — because someday he wouldn’t.
Those days are here, and he’s no longer famous. Money and fame don’t change people; they enhance whoever you are. So be kind. Kindness always wins. —Jay Leno, one of the world’s most successful comedians, star of “Jay Leno’s Garage” on CNBC, and former longtime host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show”; follow Jay on Facebook and Instagram.
2. Be yourself and be curious.
First, you have to be yourself. Be authentic. Then it’s about being a curious person and a good listener. Remember that stories make people feel at ease, especially if you can show your vulnerabilities.
And a sense of humor is never a bad thing to help ensure that the conversation flows. — Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint Inc.; creator of The Kara Network, a digital resource for entrepreneurs; and host of the “Unstoppable” podcast; follow Kara on Twitter and Instagram.
3. Listen, watch body language, and don’t overshare.
I’m a full-time mom who home-schools while running several eight-figure companies and sitting on several boards.
I only have time for meaningful conversations. So I use these steps whenever meeting someone new — even the cashier at the grocery store; you never know who will make the greatest impact in your world — or who will find your interaction the most impactful.
Listen and then respond. Most people are preoccupied with what to say next, instead of listening — they’re uncomfortable with silence. Once you talk less and listen more, your engagements immediately shift.
Reflect back what you’ve heard the person say, confirming that you are paying attention. Give and gain knowledge, turning the interaction into a teachable moment where both sides feel valued.
Watch their body language and nonverbal cues. Look for signs they’re either uncomfortable or excited — and adjust; this helps avoid awkwardness and keeps the flow in a positive direction.
Look for commonalities and offer the right amount of self-disclosure to show you’re invested in creating a relationship — and it’s safe to share with you because you’re reciprocating. However, don’t overshare or make it all about you. — Jessica Mead, founder and CEO at BrandLync; co-founder of Mead Holdings Group, The Epek Companies, and Grayson Pierce Capital; follow Jessica on Instagram.
4. Let yourself be vulnerable.
This question makes me think about something I learned from the teachings of the late Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If you want someone to open up to you, you have to make them feel safe.
Allow yourself to be vulnerable and real with them. Many people have told me, “I’ve never shared this with anyone before!” Lots of them were people I just met. Why? Because I’m not afraid to talk about my fears, insecurities, and failures. — Chris Winfield, business relationship expert, co-founder and CEO of Super Connector Media, and host of Unfair Advantage Live, a premier publicity event connecting entrepreneurs to the media; follow Chris on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
5. Make eye contact.
Making eye contact is our most powerful physical ability — and the most underutilized. As a society, we’re inherently taught that looking directly into someone’s eyes is intimidating and even vulnerable. But up to 80% of the messages and experiences we take in are filtered through our eyes. They lead to neural pathways in our brains that can help us form intense bonding connections of intuitive trust, which is also what gets people to open up.
In the media, this is how we build influence and shape our clients’ reputations through visual storytelling. When the person who is being photographed or filmed gazes intentionally into the camera lens, they look directly into the eyes of the viewer, which naturally prompts the viewer to open up, to listen more, read more, and remember more details.
If the intentional gaze delivers this effect through print or digital media, imagine what it can do in real life! You have nothing to hide, so start showing up fully in your raw authenticity.
Use eye contact to tell better stories, communicate more effectively, engage others deeply, and show the world who you really are. Do this and watch your interactions transform and blossom! — Marina Mara, international media, brand, and reputation advisor; connect with Marina on LinkedIn and Instagram.
6. Ask questions.
When people ask you what you do, it’s easy to talk about yourself and give a short answer like, “I’m a marketer, and I own a call center.” But instead, I answer the question with a question about the other person’s work and life so I can learn about them and relate my answer to them.
Once they share what they do, I try to find friends in common. When I know the circles they run in, I can usually find a few mutual connections, which helps me gain credibility and trust.
Ask questions and care about the answers, then personally relate to them in some way. Try to avoid talking exclusively about work. Find out about their hobbies, family life, and trips they are planning or have taken.
If you want someone to open up, you must care about making a genuine connection, not a superficial one. — Craig Handley, co-founder of ListenTrust and author of “Hired to Quit, Inspired to Stay”; read more about Handley: Why These Founders Train Their Employees to Quit.
7. Leave your phone in your pocket.
Smile often and make a conscious effort to be comfortable and relaxed. Try to relate to the person in front of you without sounding phony or pretentious. Find common ground or mutual interest, but not in a textbook way. For example, not everyone likes sports, and most people aren’t interested in seeing your family photos.
Leave your phone in your pocket so you can focus entirely on the moment, and don’t take calls unless it’s a personal emergency. Don’t overdress to impress either. You can look nice without appearing like you spent hours preparing. While alcohol helps people open up, it has to be under the right circumstances.
If you’re meeting in a bar, find a cool spot with unique surroundings — not a hotel bar. Finally, don’t interrogate the other person. Remember, it’s OK to have a few moments of silence. — Alon Rajic, CEO of Review Home Warranties, the world’s largest home warranty database covering more than 200 home warranty plans.
8. Show that you care.
There’s no substitute for authenticity. The best way to invite someone to open up is to show you really care about them. Everyone is fighting a battle they’re not wearing on their sleeve. If you listen carefully with the intention of deeply understanding them, you can learn a lot about a person.
We can all sense when someone shows genuine care and concern for our thoughts and feelings. When you make someone feel seen and heard, you make them feel safe to open up and share more. It’s human nature. — Nafisé Nina Hodjat, Esq., founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm.
9. Treat them like they’re an old friend.
Make the other person feel comfortable and seek out common interests. Work them into the conversation, smile, and speak with a friendly demeanor. Watch their body language and mannerisms, and use those cues to adjust your style and tone. Ask open-ended questions so they can respond freely and don’t feel like they have to answer a certain way. Encourage them to speak openly and share more details.
The bottom line is, treat others like they are old friends. In turn, they will begin to feel like one and open up to you. It’s always easier to talk to a friend than a stranger; so the first step is becoming a friend — and then the conversation will be easy. — Guy Sheetrit, CEO of Over The Top SEO, which provides customized SEO marketing solutions for e-commerce, local, and Fortune 500 companies.
10. Smile and be humble.
Most people love a good conversation and often love to share their experiences. I try to always start with a smile. Smiling usually indicates openness and a willingness to engage. Be disarming, humble, and genuinely listen, and you will find people usually will gravitate to a topic of their interest. Ask questions, ones that pique interest, and take the answer and frame it in a context that both of you can relate to.
Body language is key as well. Keep an open posture, and keep eye contact — not intense eye contact, but enough to really show your interest level — and establish trust with your new friend!
Go into every interaction with the assumption that you and this person have the potential to build a relationship together. —Tom Albert, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence expert, and founder and CEO of MeasuredRisk, a leading enterprise risk management company; connect with Tom on LinkedIn.
Originally published on USA Today.
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