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I used to have no clue how to be friendly toward people.
After studying social skills and behavioral science for years, I’ve helped thousands of people become more sociable and friendly.
Chapter 1: Tricks to come off as more friendly
1. Smile more
2. Ask sincere questions
Show that you are interested in others by asking them two or three sincere questions. Being interested like that signals that you care about them and want to get to know them.
The other day someone asked me “Running a blog like you do sounds so exciting! Would you recommend that way of making a living?”. It made that person come off as super friendly.
3. Remember people’s names and use it
When someone tells you their name, associate it with someone else with that name. If someone’s named Steve, you can imagine him hugging Steve Jobs. This picture in your head is easier to remember.
Use their name whenever it makes sense: “It was really nice meeting you, Steve”.
This signals that you care about them and they’ll see you as more friendly.
4. Relax your face and let your facial expressions be authentic
When we feel nervous, our face tense up and we can look angry or inauthentic.
Practice relaxing your facial muscles and let your sincere facial expressions shine through.
Think about how you react with people you are comfortable around. You want to react in the same way around new people.
5. Take the initiative to talk to people
Starting a conversation signals that you’re friendly and open for interaction.
Make a simple statement about the situation to signal that you want to talk.
“That salmon looks good.” “Were you also up late preparing for the test?” “Where did you find that Schnapple?”
Read our separate guide on how to start a conversation.
6. Acknowledge people when you see them
Nod, smile or say hi to people when you see them. It might feel easier to ignore them, but if you do, it can look like you don’t like them.
7. Have an open body language
Have your arms along your sides rather than crossed. Avoid looking down. An open body language signals friendliness and makes you look more approachable.
8. Make eye contact
Look people in the eyes whenever you greet them or when you listen or talk.
If eye contact makes you uncomfortable, think of it like this: Your mission is to figure out the color of someone’s iris.
9. Respond back with more than yes or no if someone asks you something
If someone asks you “How was your weekend?”, don’t just say “Good”. That gives the impression that you don’t want to talk.
Give some extra information, and return the question: “It was good. I took a walk in the forest behind my house. And almost finished reading a book. How was yours?”
10. Take time to talk to people you already know
Start talking to people you know, even if you don’t have something important to tell them.
Simple conversation is a signal that you want to interact. It can be as easy as saying “Hi Liza, how was your weekend?”
11. Invite people to events
Make it a habit to invite people to show that you have them in mind. (Make sure everyone’s fine with you bringing an extra)
Whenever you go to an after-work, workshop, or event, is there someone else who might want to join?
12. Make everyone feel included
Involve people by asking them questions if they’ve fallen out of the conversation. Acknowledge them if someone interrupted them.
Shadia: One time when I was in Paris…
You, a bit later: Shadia, what were you gonna say about Paris?
13. Give sincere compliments
When you think someone did something or said something good, let them know about it.
“I like what you said before Maria about Yoghurt”
“I’m so impressed that you were able to paint the entire house in just two days.”
“You’re such a good writer!”
When you say something nice about what someone DID, they will feel that you like THEM.
14. Remember small things about people you can bring up the next time
If someone says that they’re going to start a new job, go on a vacation, buy a new car or renovate, follow up on that and ask them about it. It shows that you care and that you’re friendly.
“How’s the new job?” “How was the vacation?” “How’s the new car?” “How’s the renovation going?”
Only bring up things it’s reasonable that both would remember. Avoid bringing up negative memories.
15. Show that you listen
Don’t just listen. SHOW that you listen. It makes it rewarding and fun to be with you.
- Say “Hmm”, “Oh”, “Yeah” when appropriate.
- Nod and make authentic reactions with your face.
- If you zone out, focus back on the conversation.
- Rather than thinking about what you should say next, be curious about what they tell you and ask follow-up questions.
16. Show that you listen also in group conversations
It’s easy to zone out in group conversation if we don’t feel involved. Listen actively as I explained in the previous step. You will notice that the one who talks will suddenly start talking to you more because you reward them with your attention.
17. Don’t look at your phone when you talk to people
When someone’s talking, never look at your phone. If you HAVE to look at your phone (because bad things will happen if you don’t), explain why. “I’m really sorry to interrupt you, but my friend is locked out outside my house right now and I need to explain where the key is”.
If you don’t, people will think that you don’t care about them.
18. Help people out
Help people whenever possible. Kind acts signal that you are friendly. Help people with things that are easy for you but hard for them:
- DO Help someone who struggles with math to solve an equation because you’re good at it.
- DON’T offer to travel 5 miles to help replant someone’s plant.
Exception: Don’t help people who don’t give back.
19. Count to 3 before you criticize, condemn or complain
Think extra before talking bad about anything. Having a habit to condemn can come off as unfriendly, even if you’re not condemning the one you’re talking to.
Criticize when it matters. Don’t make it a jargon.
20. Be generally positive
Be more positive than you are negative.
- Make positive statements when something is good
- Don’t say negative things out of habit
- Offer solutions instead of complaining
It’s OK to be negative at times, and being OVERLY positive can look fake. Be positive in general.
21. Be in tune with people’s emotions
Being friendly isn’t just about being positive all the time. It’s also about making a friend understand that you feel terrible when you hear that they feel terrible.
If someone’s having a hard time, don’t try to solve their problem or be overly positive. Just be a good listener and acknowledge that they are having a hard time.
22. Don’t disagree as a habit
People who can see other’s perspective easily and don’t have an urge to argue have more friends.
Don’t argue for the sake of arguing. Be agreeable with things that aren’t that important.
Don’t do this:
Someone: I love trance.
You: Seriously? It all sounds the same.
However, when something does matter, stand up for your beliefs.
23. Look at naturally friendly people and learn from them
Do you know someone who’s friendly? Analyze what they do.
- What do they say?
- How do they say it?
- What do you never hear them saying?
It can be hard to be friendly if you feel nervous or shy. Perhaps you feel like people won’t like you when you walk up to them and that you’ll be rejected. Or, you just don’t know what to say.
Here’s some advice on how to dare to be friendly.
1. Change the way you talk to yourself
If you feel that others will judge you, it could be that you judge yourself: Perhaps you have a negative voice in your head that complains all the time. Then it’s easy to believe that others will think those same things about you.
Talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend you like and respect.
If your voice says “people hate me”, think back to other times that might prove the voice wrong. Perhaps you can remember a time where people really seemed to like you. That can prove that people don’t hate you.
2. See rejection as a good thing
It can be scary to take initiative, invite people, approach them, or be friendly first because we might get rejected.
See rejection as a good thing: A proof that you tried. If you don’t get rejected, on the other side, it means that you haven’t tried.
3. Say yes to invitations
Saying no to invitations is like peeing your pants: It feels good at first to not have to go out, join a party or feel awkward. But after a while, it gets cold: People stop inviting you, you don’t practice your social skills, you get more isolated.
Make it a habit to say yes to invitations even if you don’t feel like it in the moment.
4. Dare to be friendly first
Don’t wait for people to be friendly before you dare to be friendly back. They feel the same uncertainty and might also be waiting! If you’re hesitant they’re hesitant back.
Greet people with a warm smile and ask a sincere question about what they do or what they are up to. That’s when they dare to be friendly back.
5. Read books on social skills
Read up on social skills to be more comfortable in social settings. Here’s our guide on the best books on social skills.
- Cuncic, A. (2019) The Characteristics of High Functioning Anxiety. Verywellmind. Retrieved August 21, 2019. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-high-functioning-anxiety-4140198
- Jensen-Campbell, L. A., Adams, R., Perry, D. G., Workman, K. A., Furdella, J. Q., & Egan, S. K. (2002). Agreeableness, extraversion, and peer relations in early adolescence: Winning friends and deflecting aggression. Journal of Research in Personality, 36(3), 224-251. https://doi.org/10.1006/jrpe.2002.2348
- Breines, J. G., & Chen, S. (2012). Self-compassion increases self-improvement motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1133-1143. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167212445599
- Cialdini, R. B., Schaller, M., Houlihan, D., Arps, K., & Fultz, J. (1987). “Empathy-based helping: Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated?”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 52 (4): 749–758. doi:10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.529
- Lavine, R.A. (2016). How Eye Contact Brings You Together (or Pulls You Apart). Retrieved August 21, 2019. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/neuro-behavioral-betterment/201609/how-eye-contact-brings-you-together-or-pulls-you-apart