When you meet new people, you want to make a good impression and come across as likeable as possible. If turning on the charm is something you struggle with, here are the most important tips and tricks for charming the pants off someone you haven't met.
Pictures: Andres Moncayo (Shutterstock), Kudryashka (Shutterstock), Jes, Simon Law, Beatrice Murch, Beatrice Murch, Blondinrikard Froberg, JD Hancock, Lisa Cyr, r4di0sil3nc3, Tech Hub, Pretty Poo Eater, blu-news.org, joaquin uy, Britt-knee.
Charm, Don't Manipulate
Before we get into the nitty gritty, it's important to note the differences between charm and straight up manipulation. You're not trying to trick someone into liking you, you're just portraying yourself in the best light possible so others can relate and appreciate you.
When it comes down to it, manipulation involves finding people's psychological points of weakness and exploiting them. Manipulation can involve lying, misdirection, and whatever else it might take to get your way. It can be effective, but it's generally looked at extremely negatively and isn't very good for building relationships with others (especially if you get caught in the act).
Charm is something everyone can use to get their foot in the door of new relationships. You're not deceiving others to make yourself look good, but highlighting your strengths and using the tools of social interaction at maximum effectiveness. Charm can be used to get you started on the right foot at a new job, get to know someone you don't know, and maybe even get you a date. Charm makes you look good while letting you move forward in building real and healthy relationships; unlike manipulation, that can get you what you want in the short term, but cost you later on. If you think you can't be charming, you're wrong. Guy or gal, it's something everyone can learn, you just need to know what to do and practice it.
Assess the Situation
Before you dive into conversation head first, you should have an idea of what you're dealing with. What does their body language say? Do they know someone you already know? Why are you introducing yourself? These are all things you should know beforehand. Like landing an aeroplane, charm is about coming in at the right angle and velocity. Know the conditions before you go clearing yourself for touchdown.
First of all, who are they? If you don't know, it's not out of bounds to do a little recon work. Some of the best networkers will research people they know will be at an event to give themselves an edge. You can learn their name so it's easier to remember — a big deal — or find out what they do for a living so you can think of good questions to ask once you've engaged them. Think of it like this: when you dive into a pool, you want to know how deep it is.
Second, scan their body language. There's nothing charming about interrupting someone or bothering them when they want to be alone. It's easy to spot someone that's not interested in talking to others. If they're involved in conversation with others, it's probably not ideal to insert yourself, but you can look at their feet to help identify what kind of conversation it is. If they're sitting alone and talking or typing on their phone, wearing headphones, or obviously look unhappy, it's probably not a good idea to jump in. (Duh.)
Lastly, you should know why you're introducing yourself to them. This doesn't sound difficult, but it's important. It can help you with your angle and might keep you from coming across the wrong way. Do you want network for work opportunities? Are you just looking for a new friend that might share the same interests? Do you find them attractive? Be specific and you'll help yourself out. You'll know what you want to talk about and avoid charm-sucking awkward silences. So, to stay with the above metaphor: why are you diving into the pool?
Approach with a Confident Smile
As you approach them, there's a good chance they will see you heading their way. Think about it. How would you want someone to approach you? Smiling and confident, or blank-faced and nervous? The smile is important because it subconsciously shows that you're not a threat and makes you look like you're enjoying yourself. People like to be around others enjoying themselves because they will feel more comfortable showing joy. They also like to be around confident people, and a smile demonstrates that you're confident with the current situation and environment.
The wrong kind of smile, however, can be worse than not smiling at all. You don't want to look creepy or demented, so keep it friendly and genuine. If you're not sure what a genuine smile is, you want what's called the Duchenne Smile. Your cheeks go up, your eyes slightly squint, and it looks legit to others. Saying the word "cheeks" or words that end in "uh" can be a good starting point. Once you've got your smile down, remember to smile as often as possible. People rarely leave a conversation thinking "Gee, that smiling guy is not nice to be around at all."
Politely Introduce Yourself with a Question
When you're ready to say hello, be extra polite and start things off with the wheels already turning. Questions are a great way to get to know someone, but they're also your most effective tool when it comes to being charming. People like to talk about themselves and they like to know that others are interested them. So don't waste any time and show right from the get-go that you want to get to know them. Here's an example:
- You: Hi, I'm So-And-So.
- Them: Oh, hi, I'm Joe.
- You: Nice to meet you, Joe. What brings you here tonight?
The question can be anything that isn't too personal. What business are you in? What are you drinking? What do you think about this place? Where are you from? Keep it broad and easy to answer. Save the more probing questions for later. This gives you a memorable, likable entrance without going overboard.
Commit Their Name to Memory and Use It
This should be a no-brainer, but there's nothing charming about forgetting someone's name. You can't charm someone with words like lady, miss, dude, man, buddy, or chief, so lock their name down ASAP. Here's a few tricks you can use:
- Create visual hooks by noticing prominent parts of their face, turning their name into an abstract image, and attaching the image to that part of their face.
- Repeat it, like the example above and use it throughout your conversation. You're more likely to remember it if you say it yourself.
- End your conversation with their name in the same way as you started to ensure it sticks with you.
It can be tough to memorise names when you haven't had a chance to get practice in, but it really is important. Think about how nice it is when someone you've just met calls you by your name.
Optional: Introduce Them to Someone Else as Your New Friend
You don't have to do this, but introducing someone you just met to someone else makes it look like you know a lot of people, and that can make you look good. It can also help you remember their name. It can extra helpful if you call them your friend when you do it. For example, if You're still talking to Joe, it would be as simple as this:
- You: Hey, Sally, this is my new friend, Joe. Have you met him, yet?
I'm not best friends with Joe, obviously, but using the word "friend" when you reference them can help solidify in their minds that you mean well. For bonus charm points, introduce them to a "patsy", or someone that will make you look more charming due to their presence. Maybe they have nice things to say about you, or maybe they haven't read this and aren't as socially charming as you. This can be borderline manipulative depending on the situation, but sometimes it's not a matter of cranking up the charm, just being around less of it so you stand out.
Find Their Interests and Look for "Latch" Words
As you start to chat with them, look for interests you both share. There is always some kind of common ground between two people, so keep searching. As you search, look for "latch words." These are words that fit your own interests that you can use to generate more conversation with. If you like to travel and someone starts to talk about going on vacation, you can latch on to "vacation" and use it to segue into stories or questions.
You don't want to interrupt them while they're talking, but bank as many latch words in your head as you can while you listen. You'll have a mental bullet list of all the different things you can talk about and won't have to worry about awkward silence.
Make Them Feel like You "Get" Them
Getting someone to feel like you understand them really pumps up your charm. People want to be understood and they want to be accepted, so you want to be empathetic to them and their experiences as best you can. As Dr Nerdlove explains, finding commonalities is key to developing emotional connections:
Charming people have the ability to make us feel as though we've known them forever — even if we've only just met them thirty minutes ago. They bring an easy sense of familiarity and intimacy that we don't often feel with other people, especially with people we've only just met… but it feels so natural that we never think about it.
You want to discover commonalities as soon as you can to build that familiarity. You don't to over-share or ask questions that are too personal, but you want to get in touch with parts of them that are more than facts. Being charming is about more than knowing someones "stats" that might be on the back of their trading card. It's about reaching out and saying "Hey, I'm a human just like you." So ask questions, but feel free to change the tone if it feels right. Ask them how they feel about certain things or what they really care about in life.
You want to be as open as you can as well. Drop the facades you might normally put on in public and show vulnerability when you talk about things. Show humility when you talk about something that affected you, and try to be as agreeable as possible without going against your own beliefs. Do everything in your power to bring yourself to their level, whatever that may be.
Mind Your Manners, Avoid Being Selfish, and Be Kind
As you talk to them, remember to mind your manners. In this day and age, if you act polite during a conversation, you're already ahead in the game. Don't just talk about things that you find interesting or try to "cut to the chase". Actively listen to them talk and don't interrupt them while they're speaking. Turn off your inner voice and stop thinking about what you're going to say. Listen to them and hear them.
If they ask you questions, it's perfectly OK to answer, but don't get caught talking about yourself too much. Answer their question politely and as honestly as you can without divulging an inappropriate amount of information. When you talk about yourself, be humble and don't try to inflate reality. Once you've answered, send it right back with another question. Think of it like a game of tennis and keep things moving back and forth as much as you can. As the conversation continues, questions can get deeper, but never be pushy. Make questions open-ended with phrases like "If you don't mind me asking" or "You don't have to answer if you don't want to" to keep them feeling comfortable.
Whether they're talking about themselves or others, you want to be kind. It might seem like an easy way to connect with someone, but gossip makes you look bad. Even if they start it, remember to be nice and keep the conversation in a positive light. Shift the conversation by finding something to compliment about them. Flattery can do a lot for your charm, but you want to keep it believable. Don't make outlandish compliments that they know aren't true, and maybe stick to things that are under their control. You can let someone know they are dressed up nice, make an uplifting remark about their knowledge, or let them know that they have a great sense of humour. When you compliment something they have control over, you let them know their efforts have paid off. Complimenting their natural appearance or saying something like "you have a great laugh" can be OK under the right circumstances, but it's usually best to avoid things they can't help.
Employ the Right Kind of Humour
Humour is a big part of charm and charisma, but you want to be employing the right kind of humour. If you know some jokes or have a knack for being funny, go for it, but keep it as clean and broadly acceptable as possible. Nothing turns off the charm faster than inappropriate humour. They may very well think what you're saying is funny, but some humour is just weird when you're meeting someone for the first time. If you're looking for a safe form of humour, Jessica Brandt at The Shrubbery suggests shooting for wit:
The safest place to be in that spectrum is witty. Wit is something you might have to work at. A comedian will tell non-stop jokes and quickly become annoying. Someone who is too dry will scare off others. Throwing clever, witty, short comments into conversation will lighten serious tones and endear your Charm-ee for a long time.
Wit makes you sound clever without pushing the fact that you have a sense of humour. It gives them just enough to laugh at without making the conversation about you and your awesome jokes.
A Simple Touch Can Go a Long Way
Touch is an important part of human interaction and can be a great tool for charming. This can be a tricky subject, however, so you always want to be sure when you go for any kind of contact. Jeff Haden at Inc. recommends you use the power of touch in very selective manner:
Nonsexual touch can be incredibly powerful. (I'm aware that sexual touch can be powerful too, thanks.) Touch can influence behaviour, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly, and can even help you make a sale... Say you're congratulating someone; shaking hands or (possibly better yet, depending on the situation) patting them gently on the shoulder or upper arm can help reinforce the sincerity of your words.
Touch is a physical way of showing that you accept them and using it at the right time can be very charming. There's nothing wrong with a handshake when you introduce yourself, but beyond that, you don't want to abuse touch. Massages, head rubs, and a big smack on the back when you tell a joke can be great, but not when you've just met someone. Stick to safe zones like the outside of the arm and upper back, and when in doubt, just stick to those handshakes.
Keep Things Swift and Sweet, Then End with Something Unique
You want to keep the conversation moving at a comfortable but somewhat brisk pace. You don't ever want to cut the conversation short if things are going well, but you don't want things to hit an uncomfortable lull, either. So don't go for "short and sweet", go for "swift and sweet". When the pace starts to die down, it's time to make an exit.
On your way out, you want to make sure that the person you just met remembers you. Sure, you may have been charming, but you want them to remember that you were charming. It's possible to meet an endless line of charming people and still not recall a single one of them. So do or say something unique that will make you memorable after you've done all that work to be so likeable. Say your pleasantries and nice-to-meet-yous, but maybe end with a joke that ties back to something you discussed, or as you shake their hand let them know how much enjoyed talking with them. As long as it's not super weird, anything unique can help you out.
Remember to Be Yourself and Be Ready for Rejection
Having charm is not about lying, arse kissing or changing who you are as a person. You're being you, just the most charming version of you. Always stick to your guns — in a nice way — and do your best to reveal who you are as a person. If you like something, let them know. If you don't like something, it's OK to nicely disagree. If you absolutely hate something, make note of it and keep it to yourself.
It's also important that you know there is no guarantee with any of these tips. Charm doesn't automatically mean you'll get along with every person on the planet. It just means that you can have a pleasant conversation with someone that may or may not lead to a healthy relationship. You might find that you don't care for the person you just met, or maybe you just don't quite fit their personality. No matter what the outcome is, charm will at least keep you in a positive light. They may not want to be your best friend, give you a job, or date you, but they won't look back and think poorly of you. Who knows, maybe they know someone who will mesh with you perfectly.