I have been accused of being able to talk anything as long as it stood still long enough, but I don’t mind. I love talking to people. I love getting to know people. People are interesting. People are different, and you can learn a lot from just listening to and speaking with people.

Yes, I understand that it’s not as easy as it sounds. I know that it’s sometimes hard and intimidating to meet someone new and strike up a conversation, but just try a few of the things below. I think you’ll find it’ll be easier to talk to folks, and you’ll get to meet and learn from some of the coolest folks on the planet.

So, without further ado, here are my 5 tips for meeting and talking to people:

  1. Smile. That’s right. Smile. Now, don’t smile like an idiot all the time, but smile a warm, sincere smile. The way you might smile when you see an old friend.  When I meet people the first time, I smile warmly, extend my hand (palm up), and say, “I’m Andy.”   This simple act puts people at ease in a nerve-racking situation. And don’t let it end there… smiles and laughter make a good conversation.
  2. Learn names. Yep, I’m sorry, but there’s just no way around it. You need to ask for and learn people’s names. If you don’t take the time to learn someone’s name, then you’re projecting a subconscious message that you don’t care enough to even learn who they are. When I hear a name, I repeat it back. If it’s a name that is different or has multiple spellings. I try to spell it for the person, I’m meeting. This gives the person you are meeting the opportunity to command a conversation about something they are intimately familiar with: their name.  Of course, you can’t do this with Jim or John or Jane or Susan, but there’s always a last name.
  3. Listen 3 times more than you speak. That’s right. Listen, and I mean really listen to the person you’re talking to. Don’t think about what you’re going to say next. Don’t get lost on a similar story in your mind. Actively listen, and you’ll really hear what the person has to say.  When you do this, you not only really get to know people. You learn more about them, because you make them the most important person in the conversation.
  4. Relate, but don’t negate.  A conversation isn’t a competition. We’ve all met people who like to “one-up” our stories – the folks who’ve “been there done that” no matter what you’re talking about. They’re annoying, aren’t they? Now, there’s nothing wrong with relating personal information or telling a good story about your life that relates to a story that someone tells. That’s the way conversation happens. Just avoid negating the value of a person’s story with how much better your story is. Remember, people are people. We all have similar experiences in life. You don’t have to WOW people with every story you tell – you just have to relate.
  5. Thank people.  When you come to the end of a conversation with someone new, smile and shake their hand again, and before you leave, thank them by name. By doing this, you’re giving the meeting purpose and importance. You’re making a person feel good about who they are – and that’s always a bonus. When I leave a conversation with someone new, I try my best to remember to thank them for their time. They didn’t have to speak to me. They didn’t have to waste a moment of their day on me, so I want to thank them for allowing me that time. While I shake their hand and smile, I usually say something like, “[Jane], thank you so much. It was a pleasure meeting you.”