Unless you’re a sociopathic drone or a total narcissist, chances are you understand that relationships are what give our lives meaning. Corny as it can be, love makes the world go ‘round. We don’t always live our lives with this in mind, though, and often we suffer because of it. Even if we’re aware of the importance of meaningful relationships in our lives, oftentimes, we pursue them in the wrong way. This leads to unhappiness, loneliness and a whole lotta heartbreak.
There’s one tweak you can make in your behavior that will change your relationships forever, though, and it comes from Dale Carnegie.
Even if you don’t recognize the name, you probably know Dale Carnegie in some capacity. He was a famous lecturer and self-improvement maven who wrote the bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People way back when in 1936. The basis of many of his teachings was simple: If you change your behavior, you can change the behavior of those around you. His teachings and the courses that grew from them were so successful that his training program is still alive and well a full 62 years after his passing.
So what’s the big secret?
Stop trying to be interesting, and get interested.
As Carnegie more eloquently put it,
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Have you ever been to a party with that one person who just has to talk about himself? He has to tell you about his latest trip to blah blah blah and the dinner he had with [insert famous person] and god it was just so amazing and cool and if only you could’ve been there …
What that person doesn’t realize is that no one’s really listening, and no one really cares. No one’s going to beg to go on a trip with him, because there’s nothing for them to gain from listening to him talk about himself 24/7. It isn’t the luxury travel or the fancy dinner or even time spent with fancy celebrities that makes someone want to (or not want to) spend time with you. It’s you.
If you want to develop long-lasting, genuine relationships, stop trying to be interesting and get interested. Make this single, simple tweak in your behavior: Instead of telling people about yourself, ask them about themselves. Make it a habit to pay attention and to check in with yourself throughout the conversation. Ask yourself, Am I really listening? Am I really paying attention and learning about this person?
When you ask someone questions about themselves, it makes them feel like you care and like they are worth your time. It also allows you to learn more about them and to discover whether this person is someone you want to be a large part of your life — or not. It allows you to better understand where they’re coming from and what their goals are in life. It also allows you to better plan how to have fun with this person, what to buy them for a gift, and what they’d actually be interested in hearing about.
Ask yourself: Am I really interested in other people, or do I just want other people to be interested in me?
Here’s the paradox: When you become more interested in other people and focus less on making them interested in you, the more interesting you become.
If you’re already a master listener, pat yourself on the back. If there’s some part of you reading this and feeling a pinch uncomfortable or guilty, consider talking less and listening more next time you meet someone new. When you begin winning friends and influencing people, you’ll know who to thank.