Two Simple Ways to Become More of a “People Person”

John Tabita
John Tabita

I’m not a naturally outgoing person, but I’ve learned from working at larger companies where I don’t know everyone I pass in the hallways, that’s it’s a simple thing to smile and say, “Hello.” Most people will respond back in kind. The more outgoing ones will say, “Hi, how are you today?” Then there are the few that stare straight ahead like you’re wearing the One Ring. (Or pretend something on the opposite wall suddenly became very interesting.) When I pass someone like that, I think to myself, “You work in programming, don’t you?” Not that I’m demeaning programmers. My good friend and former business partner is a programmer. It’s just that people in our industry tend to be more technically-minded, detail-orientated, or artistically creative personality types. And these personalities tend to be introverted. Now, being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. But it does mean that you’re probably not a “people person.” If you’re not sure whether you are one or not, here’s my definition—someone who regularly strikes up conversations with complete strangers in the supermarket checkout line. When my ten-year-old gets annoyed with his mom (who’s been ignoring him by talking to a complete stranger in the supermarket checkout line), he’ll say to her, “Mom, you’ll talk to anyone.” We just look at him and say, “Really? And so will you.” My older son, who’s more like me, won’t talk to just anyone—but he’ll talk your ear off about Team Fortress 2 or Portal. Introverts are uncomfortable meeting new people. And most of us are content with that … until we’re faced with the need to sell our services. We’re told that this type of business is about networking and building relationships. Suddenly we find that we do need to “strike up conversations with complete strangers”—if not in the supermarket checkout line, then at networking meetings, chamber of commerce events, or any anywhere else we think might provide an opportunity to make a connection that could lead to a project. So how does an introvert become more of a “people person” without it being unnatural or seeming contrived? When researching this topic, much of what I read focused on external changes: smiling, making eye contact, remembering people’s names. While these are important to do, I want to focus on something internal—how to be more comfortable in your own skin. Whenever we’re uncomfortable in an unfamiliar or social setting, it’s because we’re worried about how others perceive us … what do they think of me, how articulate am I? Being uncomfortable is about being self-conscious and self-centered. The solution is really quite simple: become other-conscious and other-centered. The next time you find yourself in a “socially awkward” situation, here are two things you can practice.

Pretend you’re the host.

Suppose you’re invited to your new girlfriend’s cousin’s backyard barbeque. You can probably count on 99 percent of the people being complete strangers. Try this: Position yourself near the door or gate. As guests show up with their hands full of lawn chairs, ice chest and food, offer to help them. Show them where the pot-luck table is, how to get to the backyard. And be sure to introduce yourself.

Instead of worrying about what to say, try listening.

When I see someone like my wife, who can be entertaining and conversational at the same time (some people call that “charm”), I often feel like I need to be the same in order to establish relationships. But the downside of her personality is that, oftentimes, after “talking” to someone for a length of time, she knows absolutely nothing about that person (except maybe the person’s name, if she took the time to remember it). She’s had to learn to do the opposite, and listen more. But the trick is not simply to listen, but to first ask questions … then listen. With a simple technique, you can keep people talking for hours. When I first heard about this, I looked for opportunities to practice it. One December, at our company Christmas party, my boss at the time was making the rounds, saying his goodbyes. He told me that was leaving early because he was coaching his son’s hockey game. Knowing he was a huge hockey fan (his kids were in leagues as soon as they could walk) I started asking him questions: How long have your boys been playing hockey? What positions do they play? After each answer, I’d ask a follow-up question: How’d you get started coaching? Did you play as a kid?
He kept saying he had to get going—that he was going to be late … then he’d talk about hockey some more. Then I’d ask another question. It began to become a game—how long could I keep him here? When he finally left, it was as if he had to physically break himself free from the conversation and force himself towards the door. I probably made him late. (I hope his wife wasn’t mad.) But what do you suppose he remembers more—being late, or getting the chance to talk about the sport he loves best in the world?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Becoming a People Person

What are the key traits of a people person?

A people person is generally characterized by their ability to connect with others easily. They are empathetic, good listeners, and have a genuine interest in others. They are often outgoing and friendly, with a positive attitude and the ability to make others feel comfortable and valued. They are also good at reading people and understanding their emotions, which helps them to build strong relationships.

How can I develop my listening skills to become a people person?

Developing listening skills is crucial to becoming a people person. This involves not just hearing what someone is saying, but truly understanding their message. You can improve your listening skills by practicing active listening, which involves giving your full attention to the speaker, avoiding distractions, and providing feedback to ensure you’ve understood correctly. It’s also important to show empathy and understanding, which can help to build trust and rapport.

How can I improve my empathy to become more of a people person?

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. To improve your empathy, try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. This can be achieved by asking questions to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and feelings. Also, practice active listening and show genuine interest in what they are saying. Over time, this can help you to develop a deeper connection with others.

How can I become more outgoing to be a people person?

Becoming more outgoing involves stepping out of your comfort zone and seeking out social interactions. Start by engaging in small talk with people you meet in your daily life, such as colleagues or neighbors. Join social groups or clubs that interest you, and take the initiative to start conversations. Remember, it’s okay to feel nervous at first – the more you practice, the easier it will become.

How can I develop a positive attitude to become a people person?

Developing a positive attitude involves focusing on the good in every situation, even when things are challenging. Practice gratitude by acknowledging the things you are thankful for each day. Surround yourself with positive people who uplift and inspire you. Also, remember to take care of your physical health, as this can greatly impact your mood and outlook.

How can I improve my ability to read people?

Improving your ability to read people involves paying attention to their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. These non-verbal cues can provide valuable insights into their feelings and emotions. Practice observing people in different social situations and try to interpret their non-verbal signals. Over time, this can help you to understand people better and build stronger connections.

How can I make others feel comfortable and valued?

Making others feel comfortable and valued involves showing genuine interest in them and their experiences. Listen attentively when they speak, ask thoughtful questions, and provide positive feedback. Show empathy and understanding, and respect their opinions and feelings. Also, remember to express appreciation and gratitude for their contributions.

How can I build strong relationships as a people person?

Building strong relationships involves consistent effort and genuine interest in others. Be reliable and trustworthy, and show that you care about their well-being. Communicate openly and honestly, and be willing to listen and understand their perspectives. Also, remember to show appreciation and gratitude, as this can help to strengthen your relationships.

How can I become a people person at work?

Becoming a people person at work involves building positive relationships with your colleagues. Show genuine interest in them and their work, and be willing to help and support them when needed. Communicate openly and honestly, and be respectful of their opinions and ideas. Also, remember to show appreciation for their contributions, as this can help to create a positive work environment.

Can introverts become people persons?

Yes, introverts can certainly become people persons. While they may prefer smaller, more intimate social interactions, they can still develop the skills needed to connect with others effectively. This includes active listening, empathy, and the ability to read people. Remember, being a people person is not about being the life of the party, but about building meaningful relationships with others.