Answer by Anatole Ginsberg:
When I was young I thought the secret to popularity was to be as impressive as possible so people would want to talk to me.
Instead they thought I was arrogant.
Then I examined what made me want to befriend someone, and I learned that I'd had it all backwards. The real secret to popularity is not to be impressive, but to be impressed.
I spend an entire conversation asking questions, saying "wow" and "that's so interesting" and "you know so much about this do you mind telling me more?"
I barely need to say a word about myself or my knowledge. Now people call me "down-to-earth"; they want to be my friend, even if the only thing they know about me is that I make them feel validated.
Everybody – from ages 1 to 100 – wants to be impressive. So let them be, and they will gravitate towards you.
(Update: I did not expect this answer to become so popular. Allow me to address some of the common questions:
- Sincerity is key. Yes this technique can work for salesmen and the likes, but many people will get annoyed if you pretend like you're impressed when you clearly aren't. Find something they say that is of actual interest to you – dig a little, be curious and open-minded! Then it's okay to exaggerate your reactions a little.
- Remember this: every person in the world possesses some knowledge or skill that you don't. If you are unable to find anything impressive about the person in front of you, it's because your ego refuses to step down.
- This is highly effective for first impressions, but friendships require more of a two-way street. The next step after humility is showing your vulnerability, for example with an embarrassing story about yourself related to the topic.
- This isn't 100% effective in every possible scenario. I won't sell you snake oil. But you'd be surprised just how often it works.
- For the "just be yourself" crowd: if being yourself had been effective for you so far, you wouldn't be reading Quora posts about how to be more likable. But this isn't about changing who you are, it's about changing how you interact with others.
- Finally, "if everybody did this"…. then the world would be a truly wonderful place full of happy, validated friends who are more interested in each other than themselves. Win-win.
- Thank you, Quora. I'm so impressed by this community.)