It may sound too clinical, a bit robotic perhaps, but there is a way to anyone’s heart and it’s a rather easy route.
Now PBS has taught me a lot of things, but, recently, it’s been particularly useful. In its documentary on the British Royal Family, it claimed that the new royal members (either through marriage or babies) are taught – and have been long taught – that the way to garner goodwill and to win the approval of the public is simple: Be interested.
Not interesting. Your cool travel stories, sense of humor, and promising future are appreciated, but let’s be honest: nobody really cares. It sounds harsh but get down to the bottom of things, and you’ll find – for better or for worse – that, at least before relationships are created, what people care about is themselves.
Now before you go thinking that I’m some horribly calculating automaton, first stop and think about how beneficial this kind of universal self-centeredness is. You don’t have to work to show off your good side when instead a few interested questions will suffice. Making a new friend in class? Ask about your fellow student’s passions and make them your own. Who cares if you don’t get a word in? You already know who you are – the point is to find out more about them. Looking to nail a job interview? Show interest in your interviewer’s life, job, and background. Obviously stay focused on why you’re there, but genuinely caring about other people can get you farther than you think. After all, people will root for you if you root for them.
Now I have a friend. We’ll call her Not Olivia to protect her identity. Now when Not Olivia approaches someone, she locks eyes, squares her shoulders, gives a big smile, and, with confidence, asks questions about them until she finds an interest that she knows a good deal about. At this point, she can discuss this interest until a mutual bond is created and it is seems as though she is genuinely interested and invested in their life (which, in Not Olivia’s defense, she often is). From here, trust is created, the other person feels they can be vulnerable, and then we’re off to the races, friendships and romantic relationships flourishing like Japanese cherry blossoms in the spring.
Of course, after this initial bond is created, relationships become immensely more complicated. The British Royal Family only needs to interact with the people they’re saying hello to once, so these quick, superficial bonds do the trick. Kate and the gang beam a smile, ask a question or two seeming to care about the plight of the commoner, but then they’re gone, never to see these people again. For the rest of us, being interested is only a start.
Eventually, you’ll have to actually open up and shed some light on your own life. The games that every newly meeting pair are forced to play will subside, your weaknesses and past mistakes will come to the fore, and your own personality will become important. Yet, throughout it all, your interestedness and attention is what most people desire, and, at least at the start, it’s the way to the heart.