I’ll admit it if you will – many times I’ve been the person you don’t want to meet at the cocktail party.

You know, that person, the one who talks at you the whole time about their job, dropping names like they are going out of fashion with an exciting story that always trumps anything anyone else says, and finally topping it off by getting your name wrong, if they are able to remember any of it that is!

Whilst most people who are reading this are now recalling the last experience they had with that person themselves, it might well be the case that – shock, horror – you are that person to those around you at cocktails, and the digital drink that we Twitter.

Are You That Klingon?

As I sit here, I’m watching an episode of Star Trek in which a Klingon is asked to be the first officer on the Enterprise for an intergalactic exchange programme. (It is related – stick with me!) The tension and the moral of the story is that the Klingon assumes that is disciplinarian leadership style is just what the humans on the Enterprise need, and thus struggles to adapt himself in a way that will get the crew behind him. In short, he’s expecting his environment to adapt to him, without any thought to adapting himself to his environment.

So let me make my not so subtle point: when you don’t adapt to your relational environment, you’re that person. Some call it having a low EQ, some low emotional intelligence, others self-consumed, and others just call it anti-social or plain due.

Whether online or offline, when someone disproportionately talks or tweets about themselves it leaves them appearing as self-centered. Yesterday we discussed the “horns and halos principle” in which the tiny sample that someone sees of you in 140 characters or with a handshake is used to ‘fill in the blanks’ and give your horns or halos based on the sample.

Our Self-Centric World

If I try to work out the reasons why I’ve been that person, especially online, it’s because we’re so crowded that we feel we have to beat our chests in order to get heard. And in our content-driven online world, it is the easiest thing to get sucked into the gospel of me, me, me, me.

But when we feel we have to ‘big ourselves up’, what is it we are really trying to achieve? It’s actually an incredible simple human motivation that we all share and is right for us to feel:

How To Really Be Remebered

If we really want to leave an impression – whether it’s a re-visit to our website, another tweet to engage us, or a phone call after you left someone your number – the trick is in engaging the feelings of the beholder.

Making someone feel special is the most powerful way to have someone remember you, and when it comes to making someone feel special, it’s not even necessary to speak a word. I’ll tell you how I’ve learned how to do it:

To make people feel valued, talk to them about themselves.

  • Use Twitter to ask people questions and find out more about them. Ask people what their interests and passions are rather than just what their jobs are.
  • Use Facebook to ask questions that people can comment on, allowing people to engage with each other and add to each other’s ideas.
  • At dinner and cocktail parties, seek to be interested rather than interesting. Hint: people remember you better if they find out what you do by asking you, rather than you volunteering the information yourself.
  • Use your blog to add value to people rather than just push content. The master of this is Robin Dickinson, whose Sharewords post and the comments that follow are a revelation in actually helping people.

Your Leading Thoughts

I’m keen to hear from you: how have you learnt to not be that person? Do you have any tips to share with the rest of us? (We could all use your help!)


Archived Comments

  • Chris Hall

    Great piece Scott.

    I concur and have also been that person. It’s possibly part of the journey we all need to go through to enable us to come out the other side a better person – personally & professionally.

    I much prefer the ask questions (and answer others) route and the making others feel special. The rewards this way for everyone are based on giving & happiness.

    Taking a step back and reviewing the landscape is what’s needed. This isn’t just about looking out at how others behave but inwardly and how we as individuals conduct ourselves.

  • http://www.sytaylor.net sytaylor

    I am that guy, far more often than I’d like to admit, and likely far more than I even realise.

    Usually through positive motivations. Finding things useful or exciting to someone, and bringing it to their attention or lack of confidence in a given idea. One part of my brain says “this is important” while the other says “are you sure?”. The result is needyness and not helpfulness.

    An idea should stand up on its own merit, and will flourish when it helps someone not because of the rush of dopamine that suggests it is more important than anything else.

    The 60 second motivator suggests action comes from 3 things. Importance, Knowledge and Confidence. Without confidence, you get someone searching for help, with something they feel is important.

    I’d say this is true of many of us at times. We attach ourselves to the idea, rather than the idea to those who need it.

    I too am desperate to learn how to not be that person. It’s somewhat habitual during the trough of despair. Investing time in others, listening and slowing down the urge to hit someone with the next 6 answers to the first question they asked is something I struggle with during the manic cycle too.

    In 2011 I want to learn how to make people feel valued. How to share ideas with them, win them over and be useful to them. My parents had me tested for autism as a child (a lot less was known about it in the 80s). Was always a bit of a loner, would get lost in video games or starring at a wall for hours on end… but then could chirp up and be quite outgoing shortly after. As such my conversations are often interest led, and not person led.

    Twitter and short attention span tools like it, make this problem worse. The focus is so tight on the idea or interest, that we lose the person. My goal is to turn this around, to try and lead the conversation towards the person.

    This is a timely and fantastic reminder of the large chunk of work I have to do to get there. Hopefully sharing this experience has added value to the conversation & can help others who have the same issue. Thanks Scott.

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    Hear hear!

  • http://www.mypropertymentor.co.uk/ Roberta Ward

    What you are really expressing here is a corporate or ‘sales’ mentality. For years we have been taught the scripts that supposedly work, or how we are meant to network with business people etc.
    There are plenty of folks on twitter ( including those who go around telling others how marvelous they are at social media) who are the person you mention above.(Oh! the irony!)

    Those same people use the technique you describe above to cover up their own narcissistic tendencies and to fool folks into thinking how nice they are, when really all they want is to flog you their latest course or some such.The pretend nice routine is just a way for you to trust them.

    For me personally, I dont understand why we have to be ‘taught’ to communicate. Surely it must be one of the most natural of human instincts? The best way to communicate is to be genuinely interested in them, and if your not- make your excuses and beat an exit stage left ;-)

  • / Scott Gould

    Hey Roberta

    You’re right on here – people will gladly cover up their narcissism, as you say, with feigned interest.

    I do however think that people need to be taught how to communicate considerately. Talking is natural, but talking well and in a way that draws value out of people is something you learn – hopefully as a child you learn it, but most don’t. I certainly didn’t!

  • / Scott Gould

    Chris you’re already so good at this – I’ve learnt from you actually in this instance.

    Thanks for the tip on reviewing the landscape

  • / Scott Gould

    Hi Sy

    I like you’re line here that “We attach ourselves to the idea, rather than the idea to those who need it.”

    It’s very much the case that I want to say, for instance, that Like Minds is the answer to everyone. But in actual fact I need to step back and see what that person actually needs. This is a very good point – very useful.

    And for sure, short attention span tools don’t help. I’m still not sure if I know anyone who really is others-focussed with how they use Twitter et al

    Let me know how you get on – I’m here to bounce ideas

  • http://twitter.com/WDYWFT WDYWFT

    I totally was *that* person at 3am on New Year’s day (when I had too much to drink and preyed on an innocent bystander – I must have talked her ears off). If ‘you’ read this – SORRY!
    I’m sure I left an impression though. Ha!

  • / Scott Gould

    LOL – thanks for the confession and the honesty!

    Happy New Year ;-)