How to Make Someone Feel Like an Old Friend at Once

A very wise man with the funny name of Zig9 once told me, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care . . . about them." Zig Ziglar is right. The secret to making people like you is showing how much you like them!

Your body is a twenty-four-hour broadcasting station revealing to anyone within eyeshot precisely how you feel at any given moment. Even if your Hang by Your Teeth posture is gaining their respect, your Flooding Smile and The Big-Baby Pivot are making them feel special, and your Sticky Eyes are capturing their hearts and minds, the rest of your body can reveal any incongruence. Every inch—from the crinkle of your forehead to the position of your feet—must give a command performance if you want to effectively present an "I care about you" attitude.

Unfortunately, when meeting someone, our brains are in overdrive. Remember Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? He said of Cassius, he "has a lean and hungry look . . . he thinks too much . . . such men are dangerous." So it is with our brains when conversing with a new acquaintance. Our brains become lean. (Some of us are fighting off shyness. Others are frantically sizing up the situation.) And hungry. (We're deciding what, if anything, we want from this potential relationship.) So we think too much instead of responding with candid, unself-conscious friendliness. Such actions are dangerous to impending friendship, love, or commerce.

When our bodies are shooting off ten thousand bullets of stimuli every second, a few shots are apt to misfire and reveal shyness or hidden hostility. We need a technique to ensure every shot aims right at the heart of our subject. We need to trick our bodies into reacting perfectly. To find it, let's explore the only time we don't need to worry about any shyness or negativity slipping out through our body language. It's when we feel none. That happens when we're chatting with close friends. When we see someone we love or feel completely comfortable with, we respond warmly from head to toe without a thought. Our lips part happily. We step closer. Our arms reach out. Our eyes become soft and wide. Even our palms turn up and our bodies turn fully toward our dear friend.

How to Trick Your Body into Doing Everything Right

Here's a visualization technique that accomplishes all that. It guarantees that everyone you encounter will feel your warmth. I call it "Hello Old Friend."

When meeting someone, play a mental trick on yourself. In your mind's eye, see him or her as an old friend, someone you had a wonderful relationship with years ago. But somehow you lost track of your friend. You tried so hard to find your good buddy, but there was no listing in the phone book. No information online. None of your mutual friends had a clue.

Suddenly, WOW! What a surprise! After all those years, the two of you are reunited. You are so happy.

That's where the pretending stops. Obviously, you are not going to try to convince the new person that the two of you are really old friends. You are not going to hug and kiss and say, "Great to see you again!" or "How have you been all these years?" You merely say, "Hello," "How do you do," "I am pleased to meet you." But, inside, it's a very different story.

You will amaze yourself. The delight of rediscovery fills your face and buoys up your body language. I sometimes jokingly say if you were a light, you'd beam on the other person. If you were a dog, you'd be wagging your tail. You make this new person feel very special indeed.


Hello Old Friend

When meeting someone, imagine he or she is an old friend (an old customer, an old beloved, or someone else you had great affection for). How sad, the vicissitudes of life tore you two asunder. But, holy mackerel, now the party (the meeting, the convention) has reunited you with your long-lost old friend!

The joyful experience starts a remarkable chain reaction in your body from the subconscious softening of your eyebrows to the positioning of your toes—and everything between.

In my seminars, I first have people introduce themselves to another participant before they've learned the Hello Old Friend technique. The group chats as though at a pleasant semiformal gathering. Later I ask them to introduce themselves to another stranger, imagining they are old friends. The difference is extraordinary. When they're using Hello Old Friend, the room comes alive. The atmosphere is charged with good feeling. The air sparkles with happier, high-energy people. They are standing closer, laughing more sincerely, and reaching out to one another. I feel like I'm attending a terrific bash that's been going on for hours.

Not a Word Need Be Spoken

The Hello Old Friend technique even supersedes language. Whenever you're traveling in countries where you don't speak the native tongue, be sure to use it. If you find yourself with a group of people who are all speaking a language unknown to you, just imagine them to be a group of your old friends. Everything is fine except they momentarily forgot how to speak English. In spite of the fact you won't understand a word, your whole body still responds with congeniality and acceptance.

I've used the Hello Old Friend technique while traveling in Europe. Sometimes my English-speaking friends who live there tell me their European colleagues say I am the friendliest American they've ever met. Yet, we'd never spoken a word between us!

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

An added benefit to the Hello Old Friend technique is it becomes a selffulfilling prophecy. When you act as though you like someone, you start to really like them. An Adelphi University study called, appropriately, "Believing Another Likes or Dislikes You: Behaviors Making the Beliefs Come True" proved it.10 Researchers told volunteers to treat unsuspecting subjects as though they liked them. When surveyed later, the results showed the volunteers wound up genuinely liking the subjects. The unsuspecting subjects were also surveyed. These respondents expressed much higher respect and affection for the volunteers who pretended they liked them. What it boils down to is love begets love, like begets like, respect begets respect. Use the Hello Old Friend technique and you will soon have many new "old friends" who wind up genuinely liking you. You now have all the basics to come across to everyone you meet as a Somebody, a friendly Somebody. But your job isn't over yet. In addition to being liked, you want to appear credible, intelligent, and sure of yourself. Each of the next three techniques accomplishes one of those goals.