Want to hear one of my favorite quotes of all time?
Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
The reason I love this quote so much is because it’s so true. People are inherently quite self-absorbed – since we can only ever perceive the world from our subjective point of view, we relate everything to our own feelings and opinions. Including our interactions with others.
Think of your best friend. Why do you love them so? Is it their looks? Their job? Their social status?
Probably not. We choose to keep certain people in our lives because of how amazing we feel around them, not because of their social standing or physical appearance.
So, how do you become the person who makes everyone feel instantly comfortable?
Here are 9 little tricks you can implement right now.
1) Use positive body language
First impressions are kind of a big deal – some studies show that it takes as little as a tenth of a second to form a first impression of someone.
No pressure, though.
This means that apart from your physical appearance – practicing good hygiene and styling yourself to look approachable – your body language is extremely important when it comes to making people feel instantly comfortable.
Here are some rules you can start applying from the get-go:
- Crossed arms and legs signal resistance, so try to keep your stance open to radiate approachability
- Your feet should be pointed toward the person you’re talking to in order to demonstrate interest
- Eye contact is very important – regular conversations include 30-60% of eye contact
- Smiling a lot (in a genuine way) is one of the best ways to make others feel comfortable – it suggests you have a “sweet soul” and are pleasant to interact with
- Try the mirroring technique (subtly copying other people’s body language) to create a better rapport and show your interest in the conversation
2) Compliments, compliments, compliments
Compliments may be much more impactful than you give them credit for.
Based on research, compliments not only make the receiver feel better about themselves but they also increase the mood of the giver.
It’s a win-win situation. And what’s even better, it takes very little effort to incorporate compliments into your social interactions.
I’d say every woman’s favorite compliment-related conversation probably goes along these lines:
“Oh my god, I love your dress!”
“Thanks! It has pockets.”
Moreover, you can take your compliment skills even further and…
3) Find some common ground
Let’s replay that conversation again.
“Oh my god, I love your dress!”
“Thanks! It has pockets.”
“I love that. Dresses without pockets are so impractical.”
“I know, right? You always need to carry a purse. This is much easier.”
Now that you’ve found something to agree on, you’ve established the first point of connection – common ground.
Moving forward, your communication will be based on that first positive interaction, which will make it much easier for the other person to feel comfortable around you and seek out a deeper connection.
4) Ask interesting questions
Small talk. You either hate it or you love it.
While your aversion to small talk may differ based on culture – for example, Americans are more likely to engage in small talk than Scandinavians (who are more comfortable with awkward silence) – talking about deep or fascinating topics is stimulating for almost everyone.
If you ask someone about their favorite TV show, they’ll probably respond with more enthusiasm than if you ask them about the weather. That much is clear.
In fact, meaningful conversations are one of the best ways to forge deep connections with others. What’s more, asking a genuinely interesting question will prompt the other person to have an active interest in the conversation, not to mention they’ll feel more seen.
The next time you want to make someone feel comfortable around you, show a genuine interest in something they like. Listen actively and ask follow-up questions.
Before you know it, they’ll be more than happy to open up to you.
5) Make light-hearted jokes about yourself
Do you know what the antidote to approachability is?
Taking yourself too seriously.
When you exude an aura of coldness and rigidity, it can be pretty darn difficult to feel great in your presence.
So, loosen up a little. Make fun of yourself. Don’t be afraid of embarrassment. The more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more you’ll encourage others to feel the same.
Furthermore, the ability to make self-deprecating jokes or have carefree fun shows a lot of self-awareness and a healthy dose of confidence, which will attract people toward you like a magnet.
The best way to make people feel comfortable around you is to be comfortable with yourself.
6) Downplay people’s mistakes or faux-pas
There are certain kinds of people who I’ll have tremendous appreciation for until the day I die.
They are the “don’t worry about it, it’s happened to me too” sorts of people.
As someone who always manages to embarrass myself in public, I’m incredibly grateful that they exist and are there to save the day.
I’ve caused so many faux-pas I can’t even remember them all, I often misunderstand social cues, and I’m so clumsy I’ve experienced all those typical situations you see in movies, such as spilling a glass of beer all over a customer’s dress.
Therefore, the number one way to make me feel comfortable is to downplay all my mistakes and make me feel like I’m not such a terrible failure.
“Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us.”
“I’ve done it too, it’s kind of a universal experience.”
“We’ve all been there.”
These words are like music to my ears.
If people do something embarrassing, be the first person to make them feel better about themselves. Say it’s okay. Say it’s not a big deal. Say you’ve been there, too.
7) Respect everyone’s personal space
When someone’s face is five centimeters away from you, it’s very difficult to feel at ease. All you can think about is exiting the conversation in the least rude way possible.
Therefore, stay a comfortable distance away from people.
Don’t stand too far – that’d make them feel like there’s something wrong with them – but don’t get too close, either. For most people, an arm’s length is an appropriate distance, although you should always factor in culture as well.
8) Don’t engage in too much gossip
While gossiping may sound like a great way to find common ground, it’s not a very effective strategy when it comes to making people feel at ease in your presence.
Because they’ll always wonder whether you talk about them behind their back the way you talk about others when you’re with them.
They might have fun in the moment, but they’ll feel hesitant to open up properly and share themselves with you in an authentic manner.
9) Call people by their first name
The last little trick you can start using right now is as simple as they come – call people by their first name more often.
A person’s name is one of the most important words you could ever say. It’s such a vital part of their identity that hearing you say it automatically fosters a sense of connection, not to mention recognition and validation.
As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
Use it in positive contexts, and you’ll make people feel not only comfortable but also appreciated and recognized.