“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful”
― Brené Brown
To create deep and meaningful connections with others, you should make a positive first impression, build rapport, and use the power of vulnerability.
Your first impression has huge impacts on your connections with others.
You make your first impression in about one-tenth of a second and you never get a second chance at making it. With a simple glance, others have judged you by your level of social status, education, and success.
Within minutes, they have also decided your level of intelligence, trustworthiness, and confidence.
Although these evaluations happen in an instant, other people’s first impressions of you are often indelible. Avoid being wrong, others actively look for evidence to prove themselves correct after they have judged you.
Everything that they hear and see in your interaction gets filtered through that first impression!
You make your first impression as soon as other people see you, not when they first speak to you. This links back to tribal times of hunter-gatherer survival instincts.
Everything that came into your line of vision triggers your fight-or-flight response. In most situations, it required a split-second decision. Although times have changed, your brain still works the same way.
When you first see someone, you subconsciously ask yourself “Is this person a friend or a foe?” and “How friendly is this person?” To answer those questions, you look at their appearance and demeanor.
Your default setting is to like people who are like you.
If the other person is similar in terms of clothing, appearance, demeanor, or speech, then you automatically assume similar social backgrounds, education, and even values. It’s equivalent to the idea of people from the same tribe; they have the same culture and belief system.
Now understanding its importance, how can you make a positive first impression? Especially when you can’t speak to everyone as soon as they see you?
You do this by using nonverbal communication: your body language and facial expression.
Humans have been around for six million years while the human language has only been around for the past 200,000 years.
To put that in perspective, the more recent language-processing abilities are equal to only 48 minutes in a 24-hour day. Nonverbal modes of communication dominate the other 23 hours!
It’s hardwired in your reptilian brain to subconsciously recognize nonverbal communication. To project a good first impression using body language, you stand in a straight and relaxed posture.
First, imagine a string pulling your head up while the Earth is a giant magnet pulling your feet down. Relaxed shoulders with hands by your sides, the head and chin are facing straight forward. Lastly, you want a smile on your face.
As you enter the room, everyone who sees you will most likely think that you’re a friendly person.
This takes practice and constant awareness of your body language and facial expression.
A practical exercise you can do is every time before you walk through a doorway, do a quick body scan. This could be anywhere, at home, at the grocery store, or at work. Ask yourself the following questions and make adjustments accordingly.
Are you projecting confident body language by standing up straight with relaxed shoulders and hands by your sides?
Do you have a genuine and friendly smile on your face?
The more you practice; the more it becomes a habit. Soon it will become second nature every time you walk through a doorway.
This is especially critical when it’s your first meeting with a potential business partner or mate.
They subconsciously make judgments of you as soon as you show up on their radar. A solid firm handshake will go a long way as well.
Even if you don’t feel confident, you can get into a confident state by changing your body posture because your physiology affects your psychology and vice versa according to scientific data.
When you’re feeling confident, your body naturally exhibits postures of confident body language.
If you’re comfortable watching television at home by yourself, then you will take up more space by spreading your arms and legs out. You might even place your feet on the coffee table because you feel safe and comfortable in your own home.
Now that you have made a positive first impression on others, engaging them in conversations becomes relatively easy, especially when you’re coming from the mindset of giving value.
Whether it’s genuinely asking them about their day or complimenting about something they’re wearing, you’re giving value and building them up. Coming from the mindset of giving value, you’re not dependent on the outcome.
Even if they don’t respond well to your initiation, you’re still that awesome man.
There could a million reasons why they didn’t reciprocate; know that you can only add value to those who want them.
For those who do respond positively, you can further build rapport by being interested in them. You ask them open-ended questions on positive topics while disclosing information about yourself.
“To be interesting, be interested.”
― Dale Carnegie
But always try to put the spotlight back on the other person as this is about him or her.
You can usually tell how well the interaction is going by the other person’s nonverbal cues. If the other person is mirroring your body posture, then comfort and trust are building in your interaction.
Mirror neurons in the brain allow you to mimic others’ body movements, posture, and speech. The subconscious mind controls the mirroring process so it’s difficult to control or fake.
For example, imagine you’re leaning against the wall with your legs crossed to project comfort. If you see the person across from you is subconsciously doing the same, then trust and comfort are building.
Being in this imbalanced stance, the other person can easily fall with a slight push. But despite knowing that subconsciously, the other person trusts you not to do it.
There are many other nonverbal cues and they’re situational dependent.
But you trust what the other person projects with nonverbal communication since it’s controlled by the subconscious mind. If there’s any incongruity between nonverbal and verbal communication, you intuitively think something is not right.
If you were to say “I love to eat chocolate!” but you have your arms crossed, looking down, and say in a low and depressed voice, then the person you’re communicating to probably won’t believe you.
How you say something with your body language, facial expression, and vocal tonality immensely impact your message because most of your communication is nonverbal while only a small percent is verbal.
The Power Of Vulnerability
After you built rapport, you can further deepen the connection.
To do that, you use the power of vulnerability since it creates opportunities for the other person to connect with you based on deep emotional feelings instead of surface level common interests.
Growing up as a child, I was never good at connecting with others. Especially after moving to the United States, I was often bullied in school because I was different.
I didn’t speak English and dressed dramatically dissimilar than that of other students.
Because of those negative feelings that I had as a child, I have always thought that I’m not social nor outgoing.
I was always shy and afraid of going out and meet new people.
The slightest thought of meeting new people made my legs quiver. Being extremely shy, I would hide in my room when there are guests over at the house so that I don’t have to talk to them.
But one day I decided that I want to make a change. That’s when I discovered that social skill, like any other skill, can be learned!
Now reflecting back, I can’t help but smile because I now have a completely different perspective on social dynamics. I now view it as an opportunity for growth, an area for improvement.
I’m not telling you this to ask for your sympathy.
I am telling you this because I want to evoke similar emotions that you may have felt in the past, experiences that you can relate to and share with me to strengthen our connection.
By being vulnerable with other people, you start having real conversations about topics that are important to you.
As a result, you will attract those who accept your authentic self into your life.
In today’s society, you’re taught to put up a façade pretending that you’re fine when deep down, you’re not.
You put up this front to protect yourself because you want to keep the image and reputation that others have on you.
But in reality, you’re not perfect because you’re human. You as a man have emotions just like everyone else.
Don’t be the “manly-macho” man that society imposes on you. Show emotions of sadness or vulnerability because those are signs of strength, not weakness.
It takes courage to express your emotions, to cry when you feel sad or angry, or admit that you’re wrong.
It’s easy to lie about what’s going on in your life and blame everyone else but yourself for everything that’s not going well for you.
It’s easy to say that you have everything figured out and pretend rainbows and butterflies fill your everyday life.
But it takes true character to show feelings and portray your true self to the world.
To say, “This is who I am! Whether you accept me or not doesn’t matter because I accept myself.”
You’re the only person that truly matters.
You have to first fully accept yourself before others can fully accept you. If you’re authentic, those who truly accept you will show up and stay in your life.
Be courageous, put yourself out there and do the necessary work. You’ll start to develop deep relationships with others.
Those are the meaningful relationships that are worth cherishing and further developing.
Please share this article with anyone who you think may find it valuable.
If you have any questions and/or comments on how to build deep connections with others, please leave a comment below or send me an email.
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Cabane, Olivia Fox. The charisma myth: how anyone can master the art and science of personal magnetism. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2013.
Carney, Dana R., Amy J.C. Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap. “Power Posing.” Psychological Science 21.10 (2010): 1363-368. Web.