Having Trouble Making New Friends? Try Using The Friendship Formula

Let’s play a game. It’s called How to Get Noticed.

Pretend you are at a crowded party or social gathering and you see a cute guy/girl that you want to talk to–how would you go about getting his/her attention? Do you:

A. Make a loud noise such as clearing your throat, coughing or sneezing?

B. Walk straight up to your crush, interrupt the conversation and introduce yourself?

C. Linger in the background listening to the conversation and then at the perfect moment interject a witty comment or expound on a point made in the conversation showing how intellectual you are?

D. None of the above. You freak out and hide in the corner all night.

For most people, the method depends on personality and level of intro/extroversion. However, the truth is that all of the approaches listed above won’t net you a smooth interaction and can actually hijack your attempt at connecting with an unknown person.

Research shows that there is a systematic method for approaching and engaging new people.

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over

Dr. Jack Schafer, author of The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over, believes the key to being noticed and befriended rest in reading and responding to cues.

The foundation of the Schafer’s theory is  what he calls “the friendship formula,” which involves:

  • Physical proximity
  • Frequency
  • Duration
  • Intensity

He begins by explaining the value of nonverbal friendship cues, which he calls the “big three”:

  • The eyebrow flash
  • The head tilt
  • A genuine smile

Next, he tackles body language and what it reveals about a person’s intentions, regardless of what he or she might be saying aloud. He also advocates “speaking the language of friendship,” which involves keeping one’s ego in check, and what he calls the LOVE Method, which includes:

  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Vocalizing
  • Empathizing

Schafer’s approach to observing human nature is practical and useful in a variety of situations, from romantic meetings to interviewing or working the room at social gatherings.

 Switching your focus will improve your technique

When you think about meeting someone new what initial thoughts enter your mind? Are you thinking about what you should say? Are you worried about your breath, your clammy hands or trying not to saying something stupid?

While these are natural fears, focusing on you is the wrong perspective and makes new interactions even more awkward than they have to be. Dr. Schafer believes you should shift your focus from you to your object of interest. You should focus on reading and interpreting body language and subtle signals. Remember the key to attracting the right attention is your ability to effectively read and respond to cues.

If you walk up to a stranger and try to engage them immediately, you tend to appear aggressive and you break two of the unspoken “friendship rules”–proximity and intensity. You can take on an air of hostility as you unwittingly invade their territory. Walking up and bombarding a stranger with conversation can make you seem aggressive and the interaction becomes too intense too quickly. It can make others feel uncomfortable and can lead them to form the wrong impression of you. And when that happens, they will actively avoid you.

It’s all about the eyes

The first and most important step in making friends is to read signals. Some people are unapproachable. You can tell by paying attention to their body language. Look for things like lack of eye contact, folded arms and what Dr. Schafer calls, the “urban scowl.” His friendship model encourages you to look for nonverbal friend cues, including the aforementioned “big three”: the eyebrow flash, the head tilt, and a genuine smile.

1. Establish eye contact

When you are thinking about approaching a stranger, the first thing you should do is attempt to establish eye contact from a distance. This allows you to catch the person’s attention and simultaneously assess the situation.

To send a friend signal, establish eye contact by catching and holding his/her gaze for a quick a second (staring can be perceived as aggressive, threatening or just downright creepy). When the person catches you looking, see if they look uncomfortable. If so, drop your eyes and abort the mission.

2. Use stolen glances to articulate your interest

If they don’t appear put off by your glance, continue engaging in quick glances to ensure that they know that you are intentionally looking at them and that the eye contact wasn’t inadvertent.

3. Slowly build intensity

Once you have the individual’s attention and you’ve clearly expressed interest with your eyes, check to see if he/she is sneaking glances at you. If so, and you are fairly certain that the person is interested, it’s time to turn up the heat a little.

Dr. Schafer suggests that you then avoid initiating eye contact for a few minutes and wait for them to initiate. When the person does, he suggests that you don’t return their gaze. He believes that this will create a bit of tension and intrigue. It makes the person wonder why you aren’t engaging with them anymore. If done correctly, this subtle teasing heightens intrigue and interest.

4. Make your move

Once you’re certain that your interest is reciprocated it’s time to raise the stakes again.

Look him/her directly in the eyes and flash a little smile. If your smile is returned and his/her body language appears open–then you’re in and are free to approach. You want to walk over slowly and then engage in small, non-aggressive chit-chat.

If he or she doesn’t return your smile or looks away quickly, they may be shy and need a little more time to warm up, or you may have misread the interaction. If that is the case–cut your losses and move on.

End Game

Capturing the attention of a stranger–especially a crush–can be an awkward and unpleasant experience but it needn’t be. Using tricks and wild antics to gain attention will get you noticed but not in the manner you would like.

Remember to take your time and shift your focus away from you and onto the other person. Try to avoid over thinking what you are going to say or using corny or fake pick- up lines. Then employ your technique: establish meaningful eye contact, build intensity and then approach slowly once you are sure your interest is appreciated and reciprocated.

Featured image by Tom Edgington on Flickr

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