Recently I spent a few weeks in California, partly for work but mostly intended for rest and relaxation and to celebrate my brother’s 50th birthday. Throughout life, one of my absolutely most favorite activities has been meeting new people. To me, the world is a massive library and each person is a charming book waiting to be encountered, selected, read, understood and shared. Everyone has a story to tell and a lesson to impart, if you’re willing to listen and unguarded enough to travel beyond the surface and sometimes superficial introductions.
I met many cool, complex, and kind people during this short trip, most of them leaving a unique lasting impression. But what I was greatly fascinated by was the way some special souls were like a breath of fresh air, having the ability to dance to the deepest aspects of our emotional and rational dimensions while others were like irritating intruders that were part of the environment, yet made no effort to connect or positively interact.
Being socially intelligent, or a master at Social Salsa as I like to call it, may be natural to some, but the good news is that the behaviors associated with leaving a likable impression can be identified, measured and learned — so it’s less about personality and more about a choice to put an effort into being a pleasant person that others enjoy being around and miss when absent.
So what are some of the traits of people who have a healthy level of self-awareness, ‘get’ others and dance into our hearts? Here are the most central Social Salsa steps:
• You may have just met them, but through their initial interaction, they give you the impression that you’ve known them for years because they’re open and engaging and share aspects of their life openly and without reservation.
• They aren’t afraid to initiate conversation.
• They don’t strike a pose in the corner, acting aloof and unapproachable.
• They’re as curious about you as you are about them.
• When in conversation, they listen with an open mind and heart, without interrupting.
• They remember details shared and will ask/follow up when you next see them.
• It’s not only about them — they give you a space to carve out and share who you are.
• They’re dependable and genuine.
• They’re secure and confident.
• They laugh with you, not at you.
• They may use sarcasms but in a witty way, not in a whipping way.
• They demonstrate compassion and empathy.
• They provide value to the group through their knowledge, experience or kindness.
• They are thorough, consistent and patient.