“Why do people ignore me?” – What to do when you get ignored

Why do people ignore me?

When I was younger, I was often ignored.

Later in life, I started studying social interaction. I figured out the secrets behind why we get ignored. Today, thousands of people take my courses on social skills.

Here’s what my journey taught me about being ignored:

By making small changes, you can make people notice you, respect you and want to talk to you.

Contents:

  1. “Why do people ignore me?” The most common reasons for general situations
  2. Why do people ignore me in groups or prefer talking to my friends?
  3. Why do people ignore me after I’ve known them for a while?
  4. Why do I get ignored on text/chat/online?
  5. People ignore me at a new job/school/place
  6. Feeling ignored and having social anxiety
  7. Feeling ignored and having depression
  8. “I think I wouldn’t be ignored if I was more good-looking”

1. “Why do people ignore me?” The most common reasons for general situations

Mistake no 1: You’re quiet or don’t know what to say

Here’s the problem with being quiet: People usually don’t understand that you’re quiet because you’re shy or don’t know what to say (or because you’re an overthinker, like me)

Instead, they think that you’re quiet because you don’t want to talk to them. So, they think they’ll do you a service by leaving you alone.

Here’s another issue: If people try talking to you but you only give short replies, you aren’t “rewarding them” for making an effort and talking to you. They might even feel rejected, and don’t want to try again.

SOLUTION:

If you know that you’re quiet, over-think situations, or are shy, I recommend that you work on your conversation skills or shyness FIRST. If you do, your problems with being ignored will likely self-solve.

I recommend my guide on how to start a conversation. You might also want to read my guide on how to stop being uncomfortable in social settings.

Mistake no 2: Trying too hard and coming off as needy can make people ignore you

This was one of the reasons people ignored me: I tried too hard to make friends, and people picked up on that.

I’ve experienced this later in life from the other side: When someone seems too eager to talk to me, I just get a feeling that they are a bit desperate. That just makes me less motivated to talk to them.

At the same time, you don’t want to be distant or not take the initiative to talk. So how do you take initiative without coming off as needy?

SOLUTION:

Continue to be proactive by taking the initiative and talking to people. Just stop rushing the process.

You can see it as doing the same thing but dialing down the intensity a few notches.

If you try to prove yourself through bragging or humblebragging, stop that altogether. It has the opposite effect.

Instead of trying to convey all my personality the first day, I let it take weeks or months. Instead of forcing conversation, I made it when it felt natural.

In other words, I “smeared out” my initiatives and inquiries with people over a longer time. It stopped feeling needy, and people were more eager to talk to me.

Be proactive and social, but take your time doing it. Never look for approval. It’ll make you more attractive.

Mistake no 3: You might be waiting for people to acknowledge you first

This is another mistake I was guilty of:

Just because I often got ignored, I started waiting for people to acknowledge me first. This came out of insecurity: To avoid the risk of rejection, I wanted to wait for others to be nice to me first.

Instead, people took me for being unfriendly and arrogant.

This is what I learned:

  1. Dare to greet people first
  2. Dare to be warm right off the bat (smile, ask friendly questions)
  3. If I was uncertain whether someone I met would remember me from last time, I dared to be warm and confident. “Hi! Good to see you again!”. (This has ALWAYS been appreciated and feels much better than ignoring them out of insecurity.)
  4. Being warm and friendly doesn’t mean being needy (Like I talked about before).

Mistake no 4: Being bothersome or an oddball by breaking rapport

One of the pillars of social skills is to build rapport. That is, being able to pick up on the situation and act in a way that’s appropriate.

People who don’t build rapport tend to annoy those around them.

“But David, isn’t it fake to change depending on the situation?”

Being able to bring forth different aspects of who we are is a fundamental part of what it means to be human. You act in one way with your grandma and in another way with your friends, and that’s how it should be.

Personally, I think it’s beautiful and amazing that you can connect with people on a deep level by picking up on the mood and let out a part of your personality that matches.

Here are some examples of breaking rapport that can make people ignore you:

  1. Talking much more or much less than others
  2. Being way too high or low energy
  3. Talking about stuff others aren’t interested in
  4. Swearing heavily when no one else is
  5. Trying to be cool or aloof when others are being nice
  6. And so on…

The list goes on forever. We simply can’t memorize all these things, and it would be fake to have a list of ways to act.

Instead, here’s how I think about rapport: Think about how someone is. In other words – how would you act if you wanted to imitate that person? Are they soft-spoken? calm? Intense?

We have a surprisingly good understanding of how someone is when we think about it, right?

The next time you meet, bring forward the part of you that’s also soft-spoken, or calm, or intense.

The wonder of being a human is that we have all these aspects inside of us. Rapport is about using them when it’s appropriate.

When you do, you’ll connect with people on a deeper level, and they’ll want to be around you more.

Mistake no 5: Being negative or low-energy

Always being negative or low-energy is also a way of breaking rapport, but since it’s such a common reason for being ignored I want to bring it up specifically.

It’s OK to be negative or low energy at times, but we don’t want to make it a habit!

Here are some examples of having a negative attitude:

  1. Not smiling or showing happiness
  2. Not being appreciative of your friends
  3. Being quiet and give one-word responses to questions
  4. Being overly cynical
  5. Arguing with someone who says something positive

Why is it so devastating to be low energy or negative? Because people will be affected by that energy level. Since we humans want to avoid negative emotions, we avoid the person who emits them.

This isn’t about being annoyingly positive or overly high-energy. It’s about being able to pick up on the energy-level and positivity-level of others and be in the same ballpark.

Mistake no 6: Being tense can make you look unapproachable without you even knowing

This as well is a mistake I did. I couldn’t understand why people approached and talked to my friends but not me.

It took me years to find out that whenever I got uncomfortable, I got a stern look on my face that signaled “Don’t talk to me”.

You can make a reality check: Ask your friends if you look angry or stern when you’re in a social setting. If you do, remind yourself to relax your face and practice daring to greet people with a smile instead.

Mistake no 7: Coming off as weird

Another mistake I did was trying to be unique by having odd humor that people didn’t get. (They didn’t know if I was joking or not, which made them uncomfortable).

Being weird is a big topic, and I recommend you to read my guide here: “Why am I so weird?

Mistake no 8: Talking too much OR only asking questions

Both talking too much and asking too many questions about the other person gets old quickly.

We want to find a balance between asking sincere questions and also share bits and pieces about our own lives.

I’ve written about how do balance your conversations here: The IFR method

“David, why don’t people just tell me that they don’t want to hang out rather than ignoring me?”

This is the harsh reality of life:

People aren’t obligated to help you out socially. You need to figure out the social code yourself.

The good news is that when you do, you’ll get rewarded with a rich social life.

2. Why do people ignore me in groups or prefer talking to my friends?

“I talk to someone and then a third person comes and only they start talking”

“People look at my friends when they talk but not me”

“I start talking but then someone starts talking over me”

All these things are super painful when they happen (trust me, I know) but they don’t have to be personal! The same things happened to me, but when I made some adjustments to how I acted in groups, I stopped being ignored.

1. You might be too quiet and take up too little space

Whenever I’m in a group with someone quiet, I’m thinking “That person probably doesn’t want to talk”. So, I don’t bother them.

After a while, I usually forget about the person because the people who are active in the conversation take my attention.

As you see, it’s nothing personal against the quiet person – it’s just that if you want to be noticed in a group, you need to take up more space:

  1. Talk louder
  2. Practice knowing what to say

2. You might forget to make eye contact when you’re about to start talking

I was puzzled that when I started talking in groups, someone could speak over me.

Then, I realized that when I spoke too quietly (like I talked about in the last step) or when I looked down or away.

If you start talking and looking away, it’s like you say something in passing. If you want to create the feeling that you’re about to tell a story you have to keep eye contact from start.

The difference is MASSIVE: When you have eye contact with someone, it’s almost impossible for them to start talking about something else.

3. You want to constantly SHOW that you listen to not get ignored

Another super common mistake: Feeling left out of the group conversation, zoning out, and looking unengaged.

People will subconsciously feel like you’re not part of the conversation anymore (even if you’re physically still there) and they’ll ignore you.

The trick is to look engaged even when you’re just listening.

  1. Make constant eye contact with the speaker.
  2. REACT: Humm, say “wow/interesting/ah” whenever it fits.
  3. Ask follow-up questions.

Here’s my guide for how to SHOW that you listen. You’ll notice an instant change, like magic: Suddenly, the speaker starts directing their story toward YOU.

4. You might have a closed off body language

This is especially common if you a) get shy or anxious in groups or b) worry that people won’t like you, so you play it safe and are more distant.

Unfortunately, this backfires. No one wants to interact with someone who looks unapproachable.

You want to keep an open body-language and look friendly. This can be hard, especially if you’re nervous. But the good news is that you can fake it until you make it. Practice looking approachable in the mirror. Use that look consciously when you know that you might look closed off.

5. You could be misjudging the situation. Make this reality-check.

I often obsessed over not being included in the group and being left out. There was this super social popular guy I knew, and one day I decided to analyze him in social settings.

To my surprise, he sat silent for long periods of time without being spoken to. (It’s just that he wasn’t bothered by it.) When I paid attention to it, people regularly got left out conversations for a long time. It’s just that I hadn’t noticed because I was busy worrying about me. Make a reality-check and pay attention to how others are treated in groups.

Sometimes, it could be in your head that you’re more ignored than others.

3. Why do people ignore me after I’ve known them for a while?

Do you meet people who are friendly at first but then seem to lose interest after a while?

Perhaps you hang out for weeks or months, and then they stop returning your calls or are always “busy”.

If you can relate to this, the issues are quite different from being ignored in early interaction like I’ve talked about so far.

Often, it’s because we do something that takes rather than gives the friend energy. Some examples could be…

  • Being too negative
  • Being too high- or low energy compared to your friend
  • Talking too much about yourself
  • Talking about things your friend isn’t interested in
  • Etc.

This is a broad subject. I’ll recommend you to read my article here on why people stop keeping in touch after a while.

4. Why do I get ignored on text/chat/online?

“Why do people ignore me when I text them?”

“I see that people read my message but then they don’t reply”

This really sucks, and there can be several explanations.

For example, if people ignore you online AND in other situations you first of all want to look at the general reasons that I started off this article with.

But if you are specifically ignored online, here are some reasons.

1. People expect to socialize in a different way online compared to IRL

In real life, we can make small talk just to kill awkward silence. Online, people often expect more of a reason to talk: To plan something, to share something, and so on.

On text, don’t just write “What’s up?”. I personally don’t even respond to that because I wait for the person who texted to tell me what they want. To not be ignored online, have a reason for contacting people, like…

“Hey, do you happen to have a copy of the exam questions?”

With almost all of my friends, I only communicate to 1) discuss something specific, 2) send easy-to-consume memes, 3) link to something we know that the other person really likes or 4) plan for meeting up.

If someone tried to make small talk with me online, I would be puzzled.

2. They might just be busy

I used to feel terrible when people didn’t respond. Then, as my life got busier, I started doing the same thing without having any bad feelings about the person.

If you send a normal, legitimate question like something I mentioned above, wait for 2 days, then send a reminder.

If people, as a pattern don’t reply after that, you want to look at the general reasons for why people might ignore you, at the beginning of this article.

In this article I give more specific advice on how to start a conversation online. And in this article we talk about how to make friends online.

5. People ignore me at a new job/school/place

1. People mainly hang out with those they are most comfortable around

As soon as people have 1-3 friends, they feel little urge to socialize (because they have their social needs covered).

These people aren’t going to actively try to socialize with you. It’s nothing personal: When you have your social needs fulfilled, you’re going to be as content as they are.

This means that we can’t keep score of who takes initiative first. You have to take initiative again and again if you’re around people who already have their social needs met.

It’s important to do this in a non-needy way as I talked about by the beginning of the article.

2. Build your friendships through mutual interests

Most friendships are based on mutual interests. It almost never works to make close friends with people you have nothing in common with. If you’re new somewhere, seek out groups of people who share your interests. You can then use that interest as a reason for keeping in touch with them.


“Hi Amanda, how’s your photography project going? I just took some long-exposure photos in the park yesterday.” works infinitely better than out of nowhere saying “Hi, want to meet up after work?”

If you try to make friends with people you have nothing in common with, you have a higher risk of being ignored.

3. Learn to be OK with being by yourself at times and enjoy that.

I remember panicking when I was new in class: I thought that if people saw me by myself, they would think I was a loser. That made me try to push my way into the social circle which came off as needy.

Later, I learned this from a socially savvy friend: It’s OK to be by yourself, and if you look like you enjoy it, people won’t see it as a bad thing. They’ll just think you’re an introvert who prefers some time by yourself.

So instead of trying to push yourself onto others, learn to enjoy being by yourself occasionally. If you have an open body language and a warm, relaxed face, you don’t come off as the loser, but as the chill person who’s decided to have some alone time.

Use this as a “break” form socializing occasionally, and ironically, that will over time make people want to include you more.

6. Feeling ignored and having social anxiety

If you come off as very nervous or insecure, that can make people less motivated to interact with you. Why? Because when you feel awkward, they feel awkward, and we humans want to avoid negative feelings.

If you have social anxiety or shyness, put all your effort into working on that, first! When you’re able to be a bit more relaxed meeting with people, the problem of being ignored will probably self-solve!

Here’s my guide on how to not get nervous around people.

7. Feeling ignored and having depression

It’s especially common to feel ignored when you’re having depression.

Now, it could obviously be for any of the reasons I’ve covered so far. But when we feel depressed, some additional things happen in our brain that can distort reality.

1. A depressed mind has a harder time seeing things from others’ perspective

When we have depression, studies show that our brain is worse at seeing things from others perspective.

If we’re in a good state and don’t get a response on a text, we probably just assume the person is busy. In a depressed state, it might be proof that we’re worthless to others.

Consciously remind yourself that when you’re depressed, your brain is tricking you. Ask yourself: How would a happy person think about this situation?

I’m not saying this that mindset will help your depression, but it will help you get a more realistic view on the situation.

2. If you’re depressed, people will probably mistake you for not liking them

Several times in my life I’ve come across people who seemed really unfriendly and cold. Later, I learned that they were depressed and felt lonely.

We tend to take people’s personal – assuming they are unfriendly and don’t like us.

Don’t wait for people to come to you when you’re depressed. Let your friends know that you appreciate them and like them. Tell them that you are going through tough times and any bad mood is because of that, NOT because of them.

8. “I think I wouldn’t be ignored if I was more good-looking”

I often thought that I was ignored because I had a big nose. It couldn’t be further from the truth: Sometimes our looks becomes an excuse instead of dealing with the actual causes. (Causes I’ve described in this article).

Read my article here on looks and social life for a scientific look into how looks affect our social life.

Were they making fun of me behind my back?

social outsider

In school, I felt like an outsider.

I saw how others connected and had a great time, while I struggled.

Take the other guys in my class for example. I often worried that they were making fun of me behind my back and it felt like it was them inside and then me outside. (We’ve written an article about how to spot a fake friend from a real friend over here.)

Go here to read more about how to deal with someone making fun of you.

One day, a new guy came to class. After a week, he was closer with my classmates than I was after a year.

That “proved it” to me: There’s definitely something wrong with me!

Like I’ve said before, I don’t regret that time, because that’s what formed who I am today.

I just wish I knew this back then:

Just because something is in a certain way, doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

You see, back then everything felt pretty dark to me. I had low self-esteem, so I didn’t believe that I would be able to turn things around.

I had good times, too, and I did have some friends.

It was just that being off socially and seeing others hit it off when I didn’t make me think less of myself.

I had little hopes I would improve.

I could rationally see that practice makes perfect, but it FELT like there was something wrong with me and it FELT like this was how life would be.

Here’s what I’ve learned after all these years: It doesn’t matter what it FEELS like. Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is right even if feels like it won’t work out.

These photos sum up my life today. To me, they prove that just because you felt like an outsider, it doesn’t mean it will always be that way.

How did your childhood affect your social beliefs today? Did you worry about people making fun of you behind your back? Let me know in the comments!

3 Steps to Improve Your Social Life

Improve social life

As we continue climbing further into adulthood, many of us begin to notice that maintaining a social life becomes increasingly more difficult.

Unless we want our only friends to be our coworkers, we can no longer assume we will make friends in passing like we did in high school and college when our lives and schedules were constantly changing. Instead, we have to be intentional about where and with whom we spend our time.

If your social life could use some improvement, the following three tips will help you to add variety and depth to your boring or limited social spheres.

1. Friends in many places

The people with the most enviable social lives are not necessarily those with the most friends, but those with the most different types of friends.

Instead of regularly visiting the same one location and expecting to meet all of your friends there (think MacLaren’s Pub from How I Met Your Mother), exploring new and different places and attending different types of social events will give you opportunities to meet many different types of people. This will improve your social life exponentially.

Rather than having to rely on one group of friends for all of your socializing, having multiple groups of friends will ensure you are never at a loss for things to do or people to do them with.

Think of it like this: Pick a spot on a map and draw a tiny circle around it. That tiny circle is the one place you go to be social. While the majority of people are floating around the rest of the map, the only people you’re ever going to meet are the ones who happen to make their way into your little bubble.

But if you draw a bigger circle, suddenly there are more places to go and more people to meet. You can even draw a circle around another spot on the map a bit further away from your original circle.

The more “circles” you draw, the more you will improve your social life by increasing the number of opportunities you have to develop friendships.

Read more:

2. Be a Giver, Not a Taker

A successful social life is a two-way street. If you’re always relying on other people to invite you to social events, or the same one or two people are always hosting everyone else, you are being a “taker” friend.

Not only will initiating outings and hosting social events make you more of a “giver” friend, it will also make you a more important part of your social circle.

If the one or two people who always plan the social outings were to suddenly move away, the rest of you would probably stop hanging out. The “glue” that held you together will have disappeared.

This is why it’s important for you to become part of that “glue.” Finding things to do with your friends or offering to host them in your home will make you a more valuable part of your friend group and improve the quality of your social life as a result.

3. Make Yourself Available

If you’re always too busy to go places or spend time with people, the day that your schedule finally opens up you may turn around to find that all your friends have disappeared.

This is why making yourself available is such a critical part of improving your social life.

While it can be difficult and at times there may be circumstances that are out of your control, learning time management skills can help you work more efficiently so you can free up more time to be spent socializing.

The following are some good resources for tips on time management:

In addition to managing your time effectively, you must also make sure you are accepting the invitations people extend to you. You might be surprised by how often you find yourself turning down opportunities if you begin to pay attention.

As a teacher, I developed the habit of eating lunch alone in my classroom so I could get more work done while I ate. I was often asked if I wanted to join the other teachers in the teacher’s lounge for lunch, but I always declined because I “needed to work.” I didn’t think that my 20-minute lunch break would be enough time to matter, but unfortunately I missed out on a lot of potential friendships as a result of my decision. 

Little things like this may not seem like they qualify as legitimate opportunities to socialize, but they do. Taking advantage of these moments may lead to more and better friendships than you expect and your social life will greatly benefit.

The quality of your social life can have a big impact on the quality of your life overall. Taking steps to learn how to improve your social life can boost both your mental and emotional well-being.

What aspect of your social life do you need to improve? Share your goals in the comments!

 

 

How to Stand Out and be Memorable in Any Social Situation

Stand out and be memorable

Standing out from the crowd is not in our nature.

As human beings, our brains are wired to produce feelings of pleasure when we experience social acceptance (i.e. “fitting in”).  According to Dr. Susan Whitbourne of Psychology Today 1, “The reward centers in the brain become activated when we’re influenced by others to conform… Once exposed to [social norms], they become so integrated into your own memories that you forget having held disparate opinions.”

In other words, it can actually be difficult to find positive ways to stand out from the crowd because it is in our nature to “go with the flow,” or look, speak, and behave like the people around us.

However, there are benefits to standing out.  Says Dr. Nathaniel Lambert, “I do believe that there are many instances in which being different can help. Having a noticeable difference can actually get you the job or the position that you are seeking. . . Some of the people we interviewed suggested that standing out gave them more positive attention, a chance to be a positive example, and more opportunities in general.”2

Networking, or meeting and talking with new people for the purpose of career-related acquaintances and connections, is one example of a time when “standing out from the crowd” is very beneficial.  Attempting to make new friends, increase popularity, get recruited for a sorority or fraternity, or garner votes for a specific cause are other times when “fitting in” will not serve your purposes.

So how do you get noticed in social situations like these? The key is to make yourself memorable.

Memorable Mingling

One sure-fire way to make sure you don’t get noticed is to stay and talk with the same group of people for the duration of the event.  Mingling, or making your way through the crowd and introducing yourself to many new people, is the first and most important step to standing out in any social situation.  To get noticed, you have to be seen. It doesn’t matter what else you are prepared to say or do in order to stand out if nobody sees you. 

For effective mingling, you must be willing to approach and introduce yourself to groups of people.  This takes confidence and the ability to make conversation once you’re finished with introductions.  One example of an introductory conversation is:

*Approach group of people*

You: “Hey guys, my name is Amanda.  I’m new to the company so I just wanted to take a second to introduce myself and let you guys know that I’m excited to be here and work with you all.”

Group: “Oh hey Amanda, I’m Greg, nice to meet you! We’re excited to have you on board!”

You: “Thank you! So how long have you all been working here?”

And the dialogue will continue.  When the conversation naturally dies down, take the opportunity to move on to another group.  End by telling everyone it was nice to meet them and you look forward to seeing them again soon.  Remember, the more people you are able to meet, the more attention you will get at your social gathering. 

Memorable Conversation

Another way to get noticed in social situations, whether it’s a party, in class or in the workplace, is to make memorable conversation.  One fool-proof way to be memorable is by making your audience laugh.  When having your introductory conversation (outlined above), taking advantage of natural opportunities to inject humor will make sure you stand out to the people around you. Click here for tips on being funny.

In addition to evoking laughter, sharing something interesting or memorable about yourself will also help you to get noticed.  When mingling at social gatherings for the purpose of standing out, don’t dump your entire life story on the people you meet.  Instead, come prepared with one or two interesting facts or anecdotes and use them in your conversations.

Rare or unique life experiences or trips, special hobbies, interesting projects, or successful job accomplishments are great for memorable “about me” talking points.  However, be sure not to come across as bragging, which will prompt instant dislike and cause you to stand out in a negative way.  To avoid the appearance of boasting when sharing your memorable facts, wait for an opportunity to arise naturally instead of forcing your accomplishments into the conversation at random.

What Not to Do

Greg: *finishes a fascinating golf story about hitting three birdies in a row*

You: “Oh cool, I won gold in Olympic basket weaving five years straight before becoming a professional water poloist.”

Everyone Else: *Awkward silence*

What to Do Instead

Greg: *finishes a story about a work project that garnered the attention of the CEO*

You: “Wow, that’s really impressive! I did a similar project at the last company I worked for, and it ended up becoming the basis of the company’s advertising campaign that year.  What other types of projects do you do here?”

In this scenario, you are sharing your own memorable fact without brushing off or one-upping Greg’s accomplishment.  You are also avoiding turning the spotlight on yourself by returning the conversation to Greg with a follow-up question about his story.  You shared a memorable fact about yourself at a natural point in the conversation, and more than likely the group will later ask you more questions about your project, allowing you more room to share your accomplishments without the appearance of showing off.

Mingling confidently with new people, using humor in your conversations, and sharing memorable facts about yourself will undoubtedly help you to stand out from your peers at your social gathering. Because blending in with the crowd comes more naturally to most of us than standing out, make sure you have a game plan before you attend the event.  Let your confidence shine and get ready to get noticed!

What are some situations you’ve experienced that required you to stand out from the crowd? What strategies worked best for you? Share your stories below!

References:

  1. Whitbourne, Susan Krauss.  (2017). 6 Ways to stand out from the crowdPsychology Today. 
  2. Lambert, Nathaniel.  (2014). The overlooked perks of standing out: How looking different from the rest can benefit youPsychology Today. 

 

How do you talk about your success without coming off as try-hard?

show off success

In today’s article: How I was about to become “Sweden’s young entrepreneur of the year”, messed up, lost the nomination and made a fool out of myself in front of Sweden’s business elite.

(By the way, I’m curious to know if you’ll be able to spot the mistake I made?)

Here we go:

I was 1 of 3 people who had been nominated “Young entrepreneur of the year in western Sweden”

If I won, I could become the next “Young entrepreneur of the year”.

I approached a 5-star hotel where I was about meet some of the founders of Sweden’s biggest companies.

show off success

The “Elite Plaza Hotel” in Sweden where things were just about to get awkward.

My pulse smattered away at a rate that would make any cardiologist nervous.

I knew I had 30 minutes to mingle around and convince everyone to vote for me.

So, I tried to share as much about my accomplishments as possible to as many business owners as possible.

To my delight, the other nominee was much more chill. He had everyday conversations and didn’t even talk that much about himself.

I was sure he would lose.

At the dinner, I got concerned. People seemed to be more interested in him than me. (Despite that my CV was more impressive.)

Later the evening, the results were announced: I had lost.

At the moment when my competitor was announced as the winner, I realized that I’d made a fool out of myself.

You see, there I was talking on and on about my accomplishments, showing little interest in these business people.

Imagine owning dozens of businesses literally turning over billions of dollars, and this little prick does nothing else than talks about how good he is?

I wanted to sink through the floor.

My competitor talked about himself, too. But he did something I’d totally forgotten: He balanced up his self-promotion by also showing interest in others.

He’d realized that for people to vote for him, he had to be LIKABLE (something I hadn’t thought of).

And how do you make someone like you? By having a normal, relaxed back-and-forth conversation where you get to know each other.

Lesson learned:

Promote yourself when you need to, but BE JUST AS INTERESTED IN THE ONE YOU’RE TALKING TO.

I could have asked:

“Enough about me, what do you do?” (And indulge what they have to say and TRULY forget about me and my story for a few minutes.)

Or

“I know that you’re very experienced in ABC, so I’m curious to hear what you think about my business when it comes to XYZ.”

Even at a job interview, when we’re in the mindset to talk about ourselves, it’s smart to be interested in the interviewer:

“I know you’ve been here for many years. Do you have some advice for me you wish you’d heard when you were new here?”

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Why some people are so popular DESPITE their looks

When you're warm toward people, they like you back

Today I’m going to talk about why some people are so incredibly popular socially DESPITE their looks (and without having anything else in life going for them at all).

You see, once I was at a computer LAN (Dreamhack, here in Sweden). There, I came across a woman who was both obese and short. There was nothing about her looks that was in her favor. Her cheeks and shoulders connected seamlessly. She resembled a squish ball.

Let’s be honest. People who are unattractive often have a harder time in social life.

Still, this person was by far the most popular person in the room.

People, guys and girls alike, wanted to talk to her. You could see how people physically gravitated towards her like nails to a magnet.

Naturally, this caught my interest and I had to understand: WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON HERE?

As I eavesdropped to get a feel for what she said, I realized that she had a different way of communicating than most others.

She acted as if she assumed people would like her – so they did.

With that, she broke out of what we can call…

“The self-fulfilling prophecy of unattractiveness”

unpopular person

People aren’t disliked because they’re unattractive. They’re disliked because they behave as if they are unlikable. For example, they often wait for others to show liking to them before they show liking to others. This makes them come off as distant, aloof or arrogant. Because of that, people don’t show them liking, and this confirms their worldview that their unattractiveness makes them unlikable.

Read more: How to become likable.

Here’s a fact almost only skilled sales-people know about:

YOU create the reality with each person you meet.

When a great salesperson begins an interaction, and he acts as if he is certain that the customer will sign the contract, he’s more likely to get a signature. If the salesperson flinches, widens their eyes and looks expectantly at the paper, they are less likely to get the signature than if he would send over the paper and casually start talking about what’ll happen next.

This means that they’ve altered the customer’s reality. They created a reality where it was natural for the other person to sign the contract.

Another example: Who do people follow at parties and events? Those who say “Let’s go”, and walk confidently towards their destination, or those who say “You really need to follow me, don’t stay here” and then wait for others to start moving before they start walking.

Likewise, we create the reality of whether people will like us or not.

popular people

The girl at the LAN broke the self-fulfilling prophecy of unattractiveness by ASSUMING that people would like her.

Instead of waiting for people to be nice towards her first she was warm towards them right off the bat

  • Instead of being OVERLY nice to force people to like her she was authentic and natural
  • Instead of looking for others approval she assumed that people liked her
  • Instead of trying to make people like her she showed great interest in others
  • Instead of trying to stand out by impressing others she only told stories about herself when they added entertaining value to the situation

Lesson learned: When every fiber in her body assumed that people should like her, everyone else assumed that too. The results? Everyone in the room, including me, loved her.

Have you come across someone who assumed people liked them? What happened?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts in the comments!

11 Ways to be Popular (that most people never heard about)

secrets of popular people

What are the hidden principles behind why some people are so popular?

Luckily, there’s an entire industry built around popularity: The movie industry. Movie creators know exactly how to make a character popular (or unpopular).

By studying highly popular Hollywood creations like superheroes, we can unveil the secrets how to be popular and learn how to adapt these principles to ourselves.

What is Popularity?

We define a popular person as someone who is admired, appreciated, loved and is someone who others want to hang out with. We recommend that you first define what popularity means to you. If you don’t, you may come to realize that you’ve lost sight of what you were working towards (and why you wanted it) in the first place.

Once you have defined popularity for yourself, it is important to set measurable goals. Measurable goals are quantitative goals that you can easily track as you make progress. These goals can include planning to spend time with a specific number of people each week or having a certain number of people contact you. While having more people calling you each week won’t necessarily make you happier, it will be a good benchmark by which you can measure your progress.

Ready? Great! Let’s uncover the 11 secrets that you should master if you want to become a popular person.

1. Be more popular by being helpful while maintaining a high social value

One of the biggest reasons superheroes are so popular is that they always help others out in a high-value way. They offer their help because they are good at what they do and can do things that other people can’t.

Like a superhero, becoming a person who helps others is something that will boost your popularity. You might not be able to fly or shoot spider webs out of your wrists, but there are plenty of things you can do that others will find helpful.

However, there’s a risk involved in being helpful– it has to be done in the right way. We all know at least one person who tries too hard to make friends by going out of their way to offer assistance. So why is doing favors sometimes good and other times almost repulsive?

Well, people notice when someone is being helpful just to make others like them. That person needs something in return (for example, friendship) and this is where the term “needy” comes from. Superheroes don’t help people as a means to an end; they help people out of a genuine concern for their well-being.

Make sure to distinguish between different forms of helpfulness– what are you offering and why? Is your offer conveying that your time is more or less important than the other person’s time? Let’s take a look at two scenarios:

  1. You are great at computers and help someone out with a technical problem they can’t solve on their own. (High-value help)
  2. You help someone out with writing a report in a field you both master in hopes that they will ask you to hang out with them. (Low-value help)

In the first scenario, you are showing that you value the other person’s time by offering help with something they can’t do by themselves, or that you can do more easily than they can. This is high-value help.

In the second scenario, however, you are offering to do something the other person could have done with the same effort as you– not because you believe they have a genuine need for your help, but because you want something in return (friendship). The intention behind your offer is what makes this an example of low-value help.  This type of offer can result in three potential negative outcomes:

  1. The person assumes you think you are more capable than they are of writing the report, and may be offended.
  2. The person assumes your time must not be very valuable (i.e. you don’t have anything better to do) and may try to take advantage of you in the future.
  3. The person assumes you are desperate for friendship by offering to do something for them that they don’t need help with (i.e. you’re needy) and is uninterested in spending time with you as a result.

Let’s be clear: often, part of being a good friend means offering to do things your friends could do just as easily as an act of kindness or simply to help.

For example, offering to do your friend’s dishes (even though they could easily do their own dishes) because they’ve had a stressful week does not make you needy– it makes you a good friend. It is not necessarily what you are offering, but the intention behind your offer, that determines whether it is of high or low social value.

Read more: How to increase your social value.

2. Be the Glue

Do you have friends who don’t know each other? This is a great opportunity for you tie them together. Now, you have the chance to be the one who connects people, and this will serve to both expand your social circle and position you in the center. The most popular people are the glue that holds their social circles together.

When you have plans to meet a group of friends for a social outing, make it a habit of inviting someone who hasn’t met everyone in the group yet (but be sure to check with the host of the event first!).

Arrange frequent parties and get-togethers for all of your friends. If you encounter someone you know while spending time with another friend, remember to introduce them to each other; otherwise, your friend will stay quiet and you will come off as socially unskilled.

Not only will your friends appreciate the opportunity to meet new people, but you will also be perceived as a more social person. A psychological principle called social proof tells us that we look at others when we try to evaluate things and people around us. When all of our friends have an iPhone, we will be more inclined towards buying one too because it seems to be the right thing to do.

Likewise, when people see others making friends with you, they will be more inclined towards making friends with you as well because that seems to be the right thing to do.

3. Be Genuinely Nice (But Don’t be a Coward)

At first glance, “being nice” sounds too obvious to even mention as a piece of advice. But this is a tricky subject, as “nice” people often seem to lack friends, while the “cool” people or “bad guys” become the popular ones. How does that happen?

The answer is that we often describe people who are afraid of conflicts as being nice. An example would be a person who notices his friend drinking too much, but doesn’t want to bring up the subject. So, he lets the drinking continue, thereby risking the health of his friend. This is not an act of kindness, but one of harmful passivity out of fear of conflict.

What you should do is become genuinely nice. Your life decisions should be based on your moral code and an understanding of what will do the most good for the most people. A legitimately nice person would go through the talk with his friend who drinks too much.

Most superheroes are genuinely nice people. But let’s look at some “nice” things that superheroes don’t do:

  • Superheroes don’t do everything people ask them to do just because they are “nice.” There’s a fine line between “nice” and “pushover,” and it’s important to make sure that agreeing to do things for people won’t be a detriment to you or your other obligations before consenting to do them. Superheroes are rarely pushovers, and saying “no” when you need to will not make you less of a genuinely nice person.
  • Superheroes don’t avoid tough conversations. Like in the example above, turning a blind eye to a serious problem that could end up bringing harm to someone is not nice, it’s cowardly. And cowardly is one thing superheroes are not. But you don’t have to be rude or insensitive to have a tough conversation with someone; click here to learn how to navigate a difficult conversation.
  • Superheroes aren’t afraid to disagree with people. Although some people feel that disagreeing with others is rude, the truth is there’s nothing wrong with having and sharing your own opinions. There are certainly rude ways to disagree, but disagreement in and of itself is not innately rude. Verbally agreeing with everything someone says (when you are mentally disagreeing) will take you from “nice” to “pushover” faster than Superman can save Lois Lane.

If these are things that genuinely nice people don’t do, then what are some characteristics of genuinely nice people?

First, genuinely nice people listen. Has anyone ever asked you how you’re doing, only to act like they’re not paying attention to your response? Or what about when you share a problem or concern you have with someone, and they immediately start talking about themselves? These are some of the easiest ways to tell if someone is “fake nice” and a genuinely nice person does the opposite.

People want to spend time with people who care about them, and this empathy and concern are key to be a popular person. Listening to the things people share with you and paying attention to them are critical components of being genuinely nice.

Here’s an article about 20 ways to spot a fake friend from a good friend.

Ultimately, the biggest difference between a genuinely nice person and a fake nice person is the motivation behind their niceness. If you are nice to someone because you truly care about them, then you are genuinely nice. However, if you are having to constantly try to act nice because you want people to like you, then it may be time to reevaluate your intentions.

4. It’s Easy to be Easygoing

As humans, our decisions are determined by the way we balance our natural desires (the things we want and enjoy) and our moral codes (our personal beliefs about right and wrong). We do things like spending time with friends to induce the release of chemicals in our brains that bring us pleasure. It is in our nature to want to have fun and feel loved, needed, and liked, and these are the desires that make us social beings.

This explains why it’s true that you will be more popular if people enjoy spending time with you. True friendships are rarely formed between people who don’t enjoy spending time together.

One way to make sure your friends enjoy spending time with you (thereby increasing your popularity) is to be easygoing. It’s important to have a positive attitude and avoid constant complaining.

Sharing your problems with others is a good thing– it’s actually a cornerstone in making close friends. But there is a time and place to have these serious discussions, and while repeatedly talking about problems people already know about might have a therapeutic effect on you, constant negativity will make it difficult for your friends to enjoy spending time with you.

Other characteristics of an easygoing person include:

  • Having a good sense of humor; not becoming easily offended at jokes
  • Willingness to try new things; not insisting on following the same routines every single time
  • Flexibility in making plans (and changing plans!)
  • The ability to have fun even it means looking silly; not refusing to have fun because you might embarrass yourself

If you think of the most popular people you know, you’ll probably notice that none of them are uptight. Being an easygoing person will make people more comfortable around you and allow them to have a good time, and this is sure to boost your popularity.

5. The Importance of Being a Good Listener (And Why You’re Probably Not as Good as You Think)

While the importance of being a good listener is widely known, most people don’t listen very well. Many of us think that we are far better listeners than we really are.

There’s an explanation for this: When your mind is somewhere else, you don’t hear what you don’t hear and you won’t know what you missed. Hence, it feels like you are a better listener than you really are.

The biggest cause of the “bad listener epidemic” is simple: Many people are so busy relating to what the other person is saying and thinking about how they’re going to respond that they don’t actually pay attention to everything that’s being said. In short, they’re handling the conversation selfishly by focusing more on themselves than the other person.

Even worse, some interrupt their friends while they are talking just because they have to tell them something they relate to. This causes people to feel ignored and can be very damaging to a friendship.

If this is something you find yourself doing, it’s okay; this doesn’t make you a bad person or a bad friend, it simply means you need to improve your social listening skills

Paying attention when other people are speaking (and making an effort to really be present in the conversation instead of in your head planning your response) is the first step toward becoming a good social listener. When you are listening, show them that you are listening by nodding and making affirmatory comments such as “Yeah,” “Mhmm,” “Oh wow,” etc.

It’s also good to use your facial expressions to react appropriately when someone is speaking; for example, frown if they tell you something bad, smile if they tell you something good, laugh if something is funny, etc. This will convey to the other person that you are truly listening to them and will make them more inclined to share things with you in the future. On the other hand, if people get the feeling that you’re not listening when they’re talking to you, there’s very little chance that your social popularity will increase.

Another way to show that you pay attention when people are speaking is to follow up on things people have told you in previous conversations. This requires remembering what people have shared with you so that you can ask about it again in the future.

For example, if the last time you spoke with Lisa she shared with you that her nephew had broken his leg, ask her how her nephew is doing the next time you see her. Not only will this show her you were paying attention during your last conversation, it will also convey that you have a genuine care and concern for her.

Remember, popular people are those who care about their friends and their well-being. Being a good listener is a crucial part of becoming popular.

6. Become Good at Something (It’s easier than most people think)

We are hardwired to admire people who are really good at something. If you think about it, it would be difficult explaining to an alien why there are thousands of people going to concerts, crying and screaming, waiting for hours just to catch a glimpse of someone because he or she is a good singer. Or why we value someone to millions of dollars because that person is good at a sport.

Undoubtedly, there is a connection between skill and popularity. It seems like the skill can be almost anything; even our favorite superheroes have their own unique areas of expertise.

What do you enjoy doing? Have you ever done something that people have told you that you are good at? It’s time to improve that skill.

Perhaps you can even earn your living on performing what you are good at. In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that there is no such thing as “being born without a skill,” but it requires thousands of hours of practice to truly become an expert at it. Once you have identified something you like doing and think you can be good at, invest the time to get better at it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to determine what you’re good at it. Often we are blind to our own gifts and abilities, but our family members and close friends can see them  clearly. Asking people you are close to what they believe you are good at is a quick way to get a better idea of your gifts and talents.

Another way to find out what your natural inclinations are is to take a detailed personality test. This personality test is known to be very accurate and provides great insight into your personality-specific talents.

Once you have decided which skill you would like to improve, the following resources can be very helpful:

  • Personal development/self-help books relating to the area you are seeking to improve
  • Working with a mentor who is an expert in your area of interest
  • Free local or online classes, such as those at Coursera.org
  • Paid local tutoring or classes
  • Joining a local Facebook group pertaining to your skill/interest
  • Set goals using these goal-setting sheets from Develop Good Habits

Not only will your skills, talents, and hobbies increase your popularity in your social sphere, improving your career-related abilities will improve your popularity in your workplace as well.

According to one study, employees’ work-related knowledge, skills, and abilities are directly related to their popularity in the workplace, which is in turn directly related to their career satisfaction.1

As you can see, increasing your talents can be beneficial in many ways. Your skills and talents allow you to provide value the people around you, which we will discuss in the next section.

7. The Power of Positivity

Popular people are seldom needy; they don’t need anything from others to be happy. They don’t hang out with friends because they would feel lonely otherwise, they hang out with friends because they want to have fun with them. They give their friends positive energy instead of taking energy from them. They make sure that their friends enjoy their time together and focus on the well-being of others, instead of focusing only on their own needs.

The truth is that people who complain about life and are more pessimistic have fewer friends. Even worse, since people tend spend time with others who are similar to them, the friends they do have are typically also pessimistic.

As a rule of thumb, make an effort not to say anything negative until you have first said at least five positive things. This can help you prevent others from viewing you as pessimistic and make you a more uplifting person to spend time with.

8. The True Danger of Talking Behind Someone’s Back

Have you ever seen a superhero movie in which the superhero beat the bad guy by whispering something rude about him into someone else’s ear?

No?

This is because talking behind someone’s back will never solve your problem.

The bad guy goes behind the superhero’s back by trying to persuade others to come to his side, but in the end his efforts are for naught. The superhero, on the other hand, confronts his enemies directly and addresses the problem face-to-face.

This isn’t a coincidence; movie producers and comic book writers know that talking behind someone’s back is an ineffective way of getting what you want. It’s a great way of telling the audience: “This is a bad person.”

Popular people understand that talking behind people’s backs will cause them to quickly lose friends; when you speak negatively about other people, the person you’re talking to can reasonably assume you would speak negatively about them when they’re not around as well. Because relationships grow deeper the more we reveal to each other, it’s important for your friends to be comfortable confiding in you without worrying that you will talk about them to others.

Many people attempt to justify their gossipy behavior by saying “I’m not talking behind anyone’s back, ‘I’m just telling the truth.'” While this may be the case, it is still not an acceptable excuse; some issues need to be addressed with the person in question and that person only. There is a difference between simply explaining a situation to a friend and speaking badly about someone, and it is very important to watch what you’re saying about people behind their backs.

9. Depreciation in General

You should not just avoid talking down on others, you should also avoid talking down on things in general. If you depreciate a TV-series, a part of town, a nationality, or an artist, you risk breaking rapport with the ones that you talk with.

This does not mean you can’t disagree with someone, but it does mean that your disagreement should be respectful. For example, saying, “I’m not a big fan of that show,” is a respectful way to disagree, while saying “That show is so stupid. I don’t see how anyone can watch it,” is a depreciating way to disagree.

If you have a habit of being openly depreciating about things, you will likely find yourself regularly meeting people who don’t share your point of view– and there’ a good chance they will be offended. As a rule of thumb, avoid expressing negative opinions around people you’ve just met.

There’s one exception. According to the rules of interpersonal psychology, you will build rapport with a negative person if you also act negatively. Our advice is to be careful not to get carried away in negativity though, as you will be perceived as a negative person and attract other negative people while simultaneously causing positive people to avoid you.

When you are around your closest friends, you should express yourself whenever you feel the need to. However, if your negative expressions have become a part of your jargon, you risk tiring even your best friends.

A common fear is that if you don’t express negative opinions, you will be considered to be an opinion-less zombie. However, the reality is the opposite: You will not influence others or change anyone’s mind by being negative about things. People who are successful at influencing others tend to behave in a different way: They tell stories about experiences without adding their own opinion, to make people make up their own mind.

You can never tell anyone to have the same opinion as you do; you can only give them the foundation to make up their own mind.

10. Build Relationships at Work and School

Many people make the mistake of avoiding social relationships at their school or workplace because those are “places to work, not places to socialize.”

This, however, is a detrimental mindset to have. People now spend more time than ever at their places of work and education, and refusing to build relationships with the people whom you spend so much time around will jip you out of quite a few very beneficial social experiences.

As we mentioned before, the knowledge, skills, and abilities that people possess in relation to their careers directly correlates with their popularity, and their popularity directly correlates with their levels of career satisfaction. This makes it clear that the more popular you are at school or work, the happier you will be when you’re there.1

Additionally, experts tell us that people with healthy social relationships at school and work are more likely to perform better and be more successful, further reinforcing the importance of building social relationships with classmates and co-workers (How Much Co-worker Socializing is Good for Your Career? by Jacquelyn Smith).

11. Dealing With Conflicts (And Why Confrontation is OK)

Popular people have a certain way of dealing with conflicts; in other words, they actually deal with them instead of letting everything slide because they’re afraid of confrontation.

(Is someone making fun of you? Click here to learn how to deal with dominating people.)

Popular people understand that confrontation is not actually a bad thing. How many lives would Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and Mr. Incredible (I could go on) have saved if they were never willing to confront anyone?

The answer is zero. All of Gotham City (*cough* New York *cough*) would be obliterated.

Although confrontation is often associated with aggression and bullying, when done the right way it is a crucial part of forming–and more importantly, maintaining– healthy, lasting friendships.

Think about the word “peacemaking.” Notice how it is different from the word “peacekeeping.”

Peacekeeping means ignoring every issue that arises so as to avoid conflict, and keep the peace (for now). But the problem with peacekeeping is that it can never be permanent, and often what you consider to be “peace” is actually turmoil underneath a blanket of passivity.

Eventually, all of the little (and big) things that you let slide in the past will add up, and one or both of the people involved will explode. Things will get messy–far, far messier than they would have if you had decided to be a peacemaker instead.

To be a peacemaker requires taking action– after all, you are making peace, which implies that it was not there before and changes must be made for it to occur. Unlike peacekeeping, peacemaking does not result in an explosion; it is the catalyst for a controlled change rather than a cataclysmic one.

In short, confrontation is necessary if you are ever to achieve true peace in your relationships.

Popular people know how important it is to work on their friendships, and they understand that confrontation and conflict resolution is necessary. Read How to Navigate Difficult Conversations to find out how popular people address problems they’re having with their friends.

Popularity is something that most people strive for in their social relationships, and there are plenty of reasons why it can be a beneficial status to hold. Superheroes are the embodiment of popularity, and we can learn a lot about what popularity looks like and how we can achieve it by looking at the things they do (and don’t do).

Which superhero is your favorite, and what aspect of his/her popularity are you working towards the most? Share your popularity goals in the comments!

References:

  1. Li, Yan. 2016. Does popularity at work matter? Examining the effects on career satisfaction through self-evaluation and abilities. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 44(10). 1601-1612.