We know that strong people skills can get you further in life, from a higher average salary to likelihood of happiness, but Vanessa Van Edwards wanted to find out if there was a way to increase those people skills in a more scientific way. She is the lead behavior investigator and founder of the research lab “Science of People,” where she uses experiments to help even the most awkward person make a positive impression.
Van Edwards is the author of a new book, “Captivate: The Science of Succeeding with People” and has consulted for Fortune 500 companies like Clean & Clear, American Express and Symantec. Below are tips Van Edwards shared on “CBS This Morning” for handling the oft-dreaded networking event:
Use conversation “sparkers” instead of “starters”
When Van Edwards asked people to rate conversation starters, she found that the questions most people ask when starting a conversation are: “What do you do?” and “How are you?” These were also ranked the lowest.
Instead, she suggests that you use conversation “sparkers” instead of “starters.” For example: “Work on anything exciting recently?” or “What was the highlight of your day?”
“In a way, you’re asking the brain to look for hits and not misses, which is more dopamine-producing,” Van Edwards said.
Position yourself in the “social zones”
In another example, Van Edwards and her team set up cameras around networking events and followed people’s foot patterns. They found that the best places to stand in a room are what she calls “social zones.” For example, where people are exiting the bar. Places to avoid are the entrance or “start zone,” and “side zones,” like the food table or the area near the bathrooms. Social zones, she found, are where the highest quality conversations occur.
Use body language to deal with interrupters
If you don’t want your conversation to be interrupted, Van Edwards suggests that you close out your body and angle towards the person you want to speak to. Another way, is to gently place your hand on their arm to let them know, “I see you.” Then, ask them what brings them over.
Lastly, Van Edwards dispelled the old adage of “fake it ‘til you make it.” She said people have a natural ability to discern real smiles from fake ones. So, put on a real one.