Two cannibals were eating a clown. One says to the other, “does this taste funny to you?”
Ok, you’ve heard it before, but it makes the Flashionista laugh every time, and it’s a great example of how to create instant rapport.
To any party of 2 or more, conversation is the fuel that keeps things energized.
- Laughter is contagious. Social humor is triggered by situations. Comic genius, Mel Brooks said, “Never, never try to be funny!” It’s better to amuse and be amused. Be relaxed. The more confident you seem the less exposed you’ll feel.
- Faces reveal useful information. Make eye contact and smile. A real smile should reach your eyes. If it doesn’t it will read as false.
- Smiling is a confidence trick. When you smile the other person will usually smile back.
- Missteps during greetings puts people on guard instead of putting them at ease. Of all social gaffes, the most avoidable is bungling a name. The classic introduction, “Zachary, I’d like you to meet Alpha Jones. Alpha, this is Zachery Taylor,” repeats each name twice, in case it wasn’t noted the first time.
- Be generous with your own name. Even if you’ve met before, say your name, especially if the other person’s name escapes you. Doing this will prompt them to tell you theirs.
- Approach small talk like a treasure hunt, expanding the discussion gradually. Put others at ease. Put yourself at ease. Include everyone present. Establish shared interests and actively pursue your own.
- Staying in neutral for too long guarantees boredom but accelerating to ‘hot’ topics right away can short circuit congenial communication. Things should go like this:Courtesies (How are you?). Trade information (What brought you here?). Trade opinions (Isn’t the chocolate cake worth the indulgence?)
- When having a face-to-face conversation with someone, pay attention and don’t touch your cell phone!
- Topics should be relevant and accessible; current affairs, hobbies, books, art, music, or the immediate surroundings, for instance. A good conversation keeps moving and evolving.
- Charm can’t work on autopilot. Being interested makes you interesting. You don’t have to say much to be pleasant, which is the first best step to opening up any conversation.
Famous funny words by the late comedian Tommy Cooper*
Catherine Blyth is also a contributor to The Times, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman and Mail on Sunday. She has written scripts for the BBC and Channel 5.