“One of the biggest mistakes I still make is caring way too much about what people think of me. People I barely know. When I moved cities I spent the first few moments of every conversation trying my hardest to impress. I’d whip out my best anecdotes and name-drop like nobody’s business just to feel some sense of gratification.”
By Special Guest Writer…
Journalist and co-founder of small business & online coffee community: Origins Sourced. Writing topics include business, branding & brews.
At the age of 20, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree, packed my bags and headed to the big smoke. Just like that, I went from my secure, familiar home in Hobart, to being a complete nobody in Sydney.
I had no concrete plan. No friends. No money and no idea. But it turned out to be the best thing I ever did.
Here are five things I learnt after building friendships from scratch in a new city.
1. Be real, and the right people will find you.
There’s a little orange book doing the rounds at the moment. You might’ve heard of it. It’s called The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck and it’s a self-proclaimed ‘anti self help book’ with the following takeaway:
The key to living a good life is not giving a fuck about one more thing, but rather, giving a fuck only about the things that align with your personal values.
One of the biggest mistakes I still make is caring way too much about what people think of me. People I barely know. When I moved cities I spent the first few moments of every conversation trying my hardest to impress. I’d whip out my best anecdotes and name-drop like nobody’s business just to feel some sense of gratification.
Then everything changed.
I started noticing that the people I was most drawn to, the people with charisma, and the people I wanted to be around, all had something in common. They were just real.
Real people are humble. And real people show genuine curiosity in others. They’re open and honest when things aren’t going so well. And they’re excited for you when you have something to celebrate. They hold themselves with a quiet confidence, making them instantly likeable.
“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others.”
― Mark Manson
2. Own your flaws.
There’s a reason why we’re all drawn towards self-depreciating humour, and fall in love with comedians like Hannah Gadsby. It’s because they’re not delusional about their imperfections; they own them.
At the end of the day we’re all human beings. No matter how perfect our facade, the closer people get to us, the more our cracks start to show. So we may as well be ahead of the game, right? The truth is, people don’t want to be impressed; they just want to know you for you.
Once I realised this I started to put my pride aside and be more open. In turn people started opening up to me, and real relationships were built. To this day I’m extremely close friends with the first few people I was my most vulnerable with.
3. Be Interested, Not Interesting.
‘One-upping’ is hands down one of the most annoying habits a person can have. Yet we’ve all done it before.
There’s a kid who can’t wait to tell his Dad a joke he heard at school. Busting with excitement he begins reciting the joke, but then his Dad does something truly evil. He intercepts the punchline.
There’s nothing worse than having someone steal your thunder. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be a glory stealer.
Don’t be the person who trumps another person’s exciting news with bigger news of your own. If someone’s stoked that they got a free business class upgrade, don’t be the guy who says they fly business all the time. Be excited with them. Let them have this.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.”
― Ernest Hemingway
4. It’s Better to Be Underrated than Overrated
Back in my Hobart-residing days I had this family friend, Elvin. Unassuming Elvin moved from Singapore to study medicine and he lived in an apartment with a few friends.
When Elvin completed his studies he invited me and my parents to attend his wedding in Singapore. So we went.
To our surprise, it wasn’t until we landed that we realised he was Singapore Royalty. He lived in a mansion, owned fancy cars and had some of the country’s top politicians and celebrities attend his wedding. It’s the only wedding I’ve ever been to where there was a full bomb sweep beforehand.
But the craziest part? In our five years of knowing Elvin, he never mentioned any of it.
When you’re genuinely secure in yourself you don’t feel the need to brag. If you have something to be proud of, people will find out when they find out. But it’s not always the first thing they need to know.
5. What Susie says about Sally says more of Susie than of Sally.
It makes complete sense when you think about it: What you say about other people says more about yourself than of that person.
It’s a trap we all fall into, but I know that when I’m around people who constantly talk about other people, I feel uncomfortable. And I trust them a little less. After all, who’s to say they don’t talk about me that way when I’m not around?
Gossiping is contagious, so the key is to choose carefully who you hang out with. Or make an effort to steer negative conversations towards other things. If you’re the only person in the room who has only positive things to say about others, people will start assuming you think the same nice things about them and they’ll want to be around you more.
When you say positive things about people for no rhyme or reason, it shows that you’re secure, intelligent and kind. And who doesn’t like a secure, intelligent and kind person?
“Great Minds Discuss Ideas; Average Minds Discuss Events; Small Minds Discuss People.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
Being likable is a lot easier than you think. You just have to think of yourself less. At the end of the day we’re all human beings who crave attention and affirmation. But if we can be the person who gives more than we receive, we’ll not only be happier, but we’ll be far more likable.