Trying to make small talk with someone you’ve just met can be intimidating and stressful. We feel like we need to convince the other person that we’re smart, so we may casually drop our job title, education, and accomplishments. But that’s actually the opposite of what you should do.
It turns out, the way to come off as smart is to simply ask for advice. A series of studies from Harvard and Wharton finds that asking for advice boosts perceptions of confidence. The idea is that when someone asks for advice or help, it tends to make us think they’re smart to ask for our advice because we’re smart.
How to be an excellent advice seeker:
- Ask a lot of questions - Another Harvard study finds that in both speed dating conversations and “get-to-know-you” chats, people warmed up more to those who asked a lot of questions, as they seemed more caring and understanding. Asking follow-up questions is important as it shows you’re really listening and interested.
- Banish the fear - Anxiety can keep us from taking the first step in a situation, whether it’s a business opportunity or with a new romantic partner. Do what you can to shake off the jitters and ask for advice.
- Remember this person isn’t your new bestie … yet - Focus on specific questions and keep it brief. To make a great first impression, be cognizant of the person’s time and don’t ask for detailed feedback.