“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a self-help book written by Dale Carnegie and published in 1936. There have been more than 30 million copies sold worldwide, making it one of the best-selling books of all time. The book offered six ways to make people like you and many of the insights are still very applicable today. The question I’m often considering is, “how can I be more likable in a world of Zoom and Teams calls?”
I’d like to offer you six recommendations based on my experience of 30,716 minutes and counting on Zoom this year so far. You’ll notice these six recommendations are based on Dale Carnegie’s best practices but tailored for the new digital age.
- Become genuinely interested in other people. This probably goes without saying but your interest or disinterest in others will show up pretty quickly on Zoom. Use the first few minutes with a new call to point out things you see in their background (such as photos or nice plants). By now, it is likely the person is thoughtful about where they are sitting in their home or office so be sure to notice what they might want you to see. Even a virtual background can say a lot about someone - the point is to show interest in their environment. No video? No problem. Ask about their physical environment to paint a picture in your mind. To quote the book, "You can make more friends in two months by being interested in them, than in two years by making them interested in you." One good way to make quality, lasting connections is to learn to be genuinely interested in them and their interests and physical environments.
- Smile. This is one thing that carries over well to a virtual environment. Get those eyebrows up and show a big smile! This is especially important during the first few minutes of a call. Your first impression will likely be their lasting impression. One trick if you aren’t feeling the greatest is to use the feature under the Zoom settings to “Touch up my appearance”. It will remove some wrinkles and brighten your eyes a bit. Just be sure to keep it on the lowest setting so your teeth whiteness doesn’t blind them. Going back to quote the book, “Smiles are free to give and have an amazing ability to make others feel wonderful. Smile in everything that you do.”
- Say Names. This is very important on Zoom, and you can instantly tell who does it well. . The person’s name is likely written directly below their face, so USE IT. Remember that a person's name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language. "The average person is more interested in their own name than in all the other names in the world put together." We can make people feel highly valued and important by speaking their name often - especially on a virtual call. I generally try and say it at least three times per half-hour call. Once at the beginning of the call, once during, and once at the end to close us out. You’ll be amazed at how well it works to engage them virtually and build rapport.
- Be a good listener. I recently took a DISC profile and learned that I have an “I” or “influence” personality. People with “I” personalities tend to be more open and place an emphasis on relationships and influencing or persuading others, so naturally that makes me someone who might talk a lot. But it is still important to encourage others to talk about themselves. The easiest way to become a good conversationalist is to become a good listener. To the first point, we must actually care about what people have to say. An open-ended question such as, “What’s been on your mind today?” is a good way to get them talking about what might be interesting to them. This can work with new or existing professional connections.
- Talk in terms of the other person's interest. We touched on this a bit in the first point about pointing out things in their environment - but this takes it a bit deeper. What are their interests or “happy places”? Is it mountain biking, cooking, or sailing? The road to a person's heart is to talk about the things he or she treasures most. This is important during the virtual lives we are living to give people an escape to think about something they enjoy. To quote the book, “If we talk to people about what they are interested in, they will feel valued and value us in return.”
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely. The golden rule applies to virtual as well. We can seek to treat other people how we would like to be treated. We love to feel important and so does everyone else. When was the last time you showed appreciation for someone on a Zoom call? Are you able to join a call early and stay interested throughout the entire call? These little things really matter during this time to help other people feel important.
Next steps for you
No matter your role, I encourage you to implement these six strategies in 2022 and see if you become a better networker, coworker, leader, and friend. Zoom meetings are likely here to stay, so it’s important for us all to find new ways to establish and maintain lasting connections. Even if you find yourself at an in-person meeting this year, you can still deploy a few of these tactics to make a great impression.