How to Overcome Your Mental Barriers to Connection and Build Deep Friendships Within Minutes

Imagine that two minutes ago you met someone for the first time. Now, you’re laughing and joking with them. You’re sharing a personal story. You feel a deep connection with them, and the two of you are clearly enjoying each other’s company. After your conversation finishes you promise to keep in touch.

We’ve all had times when we meet someone and feel deep connection with them within minutes.  Not just a surface level “acquaintance” type connection, but a true connection between their character and yours. It’s platonic love at first sight.

For most people, this only happens a few times in their lifetime. However for some people, this is a way of life. When they meet people they can build a deep connection within minutes if they choose.

Are these people gifted? Maybe some of them. But certainly not all. And the tactics they use to connect with people can be implemented by anyone to build deep friendships.

It turns, out there are powerful ways to connect with people even if you’ve never been sure how.

The first is a powerful technique that Felicia teaches.

Case Study: The Notice-Story-Why Technique

I was skeptical when I first heard Felicia describe the Notice-Story-Why technique. It seemed too simple. I had spent so many years of my life wondering how to have deep conversations with people and all of a sudden an easy three-step solution popped up? It seemed like a gimmick.

Until I tried it.

Here’s what happened the first time I used the Notice-Story-Why technique.

The Girl With The Bicycle Necklace

I was standing in line at the library and I noticed the girl standing in front of me was wearing a necklace with a tiny bicycle dangling from it. I was genuinely intrigued by the necklace, and so I decided to test out this crazy technique.

I turned to her and said, “Is that a bicycle? That’s such an interesting necklace.”

“Thanks!” she said. “I wear it almost every day.”

“Is there a story behind it?”

She paused, and I hesitated. I thought, ‘What a weird question to ask… who goes around asking people for stories? This isn’t going to work.’

“Actually, yes. The summer before I went to college I biked from the west coast here to Minnesota. I bought this necklace as a reminder of my journey.”

I was stunned.

“Really? That’s a way better story than I expected. Why did you bike all the way to Minnesota?”

“I did it to to prove to myself that I was strong. I bought this necklace as a reminder of my inner strength. Whenever I look at it I remind myself never to be weak.”

I stood there, awestruck. This was the deepest response I had ever gotten within such a short time of meeting someone.

I kept talking talking with her for a little while, and then I asked if she wanted to grab coffee sometime to continue our conversation. Her response was an immediate “Yeah!”

Keep in mind that this was the first time I ever used this technique. It worked better than I ever expected. As I continued to use it, I realized that people love to tell you interesting things about themselves if you just know the right way to ask them.

Here’s another example of an amazing response I got using the Notice-Story-Why technique.

A Fight To The Death With A Crocodile

One of my best friends is from Zimbabwe, and he always wears a crocodile tooth necklace. (Necklaces are a great thing to ask people for stories about.) One day when I was sitting next to him I realized I had never asked him about it.

“Hey man, you always wear that necklace. What’s the story behind it?”

“I never told you? Whoa. I’ve told this story a million times.

In Zimbabwe we have a tradition. The sons of royalty have to pass a test at their coming of age. It goes like this: You are put into a cage with a baby crocodile and only one of you comes out alive. You must fight to the death to prove your manhood.

As a part of the royal family, I had to pass this test. I passed, of course, since I am here today, but before I killed the crocodile, it bit me below my neck.”

He lifted the necklace up and revealed a large scar right below his neck that had clearly been a deep wound at one point.

“I took this tooth from the dead crocodile and made a necklace out of it to remind me of the fight.”

I couldn’t believe it. This story was absolutely ridiculous.

“What the hell? Are you serious? You fought a baby crocodile to death and then pulled out one of its teeth? You are a member of a royal family back in Zimbabwe?”

He just smiled and laughed.

He was joking, it turned out. He had been given the necklace as a gift and he told this same story to everyone who asked about it.

We broke out laughing. It didn’t matter that he made it up. His tale was the most entertaining story I had heard in a long time. It was a downright hilarious response. This just shows that the technique works even on close friends.

Even When It Doesn’t Work, It Works

This approach works so well because the word “story” makes people want to tell a story even if they don’t have one. For example, I met someone for the first time and noticed that some of her hair was dyed pink. So I said, “I like your pink hair. What’s the story behind it?”

“No story,” she said. “I was just hanging out with one of my friends and we got bored so we decided to dye our hair.”

She paused for a second.

“You know, I guess that is how the best stories begin.”

“Why pink?”

“Pink is such a fun color. It shows people that you have a fun streak – that you are interesting.”

We kept talking for a while, exchanging stories, and we had an awesome time. Asking people for stories makes them think in terms of stories.

It makes perfect sense. We think of the world in terms of stories and they have a powerful influence on how we view the world. By going around looking for stories, we touch people on a deep emotional level and enrich both our lives and theirs.

Overcoming Barriers to Connection

The Notice-Story-Why technique is a great way to connect with people on a deep level. Most people, however, have in place mental barriers that prevent them from truly connecting with others. I’m going to introduce three of the most powerful techniques I’ve discovered to help you surmount your barriers to connection.

How to Never Run Out of Things to Say

A common problem that many introverts (like me) encounter is that we are talkative and sociable around friends and family but around strangers or acquaintances we struggle to find things to say.

In my case I was always easy-going and funny around friends but when I talked to strangers it was like my spout of conversation closed up. My conversations would be filled with awkward pauses. Eventually, I started using a technique to free up my mind and make sure conversation could flow no matter who I was talking to. Here’s how it works.

Spontaneous Storytelling

  1. Find somewhere where you can speak out loud, alone.
  2. Set a timer for three minutes.
  3. Start talking. Make up a story on the spot and deliver it with enthusiasm as if you were telling your best friend about the craziest thing that ever happened to you. The only rule is that you aren’t allowed to stop talking. Keep the words flowing, smoothly and naturally, never judging if you say something weird or strange. Make noises, act things out, do crazy voices. Be goofy and fun and no matter what you say, keep going.

This exercise ensure that when you enter an actual conversation, your creative juices are flowing. You’ll no longer be worrying about saying the wrong thing or not knowing what to say. Instead, your focus will be on creating a fun, enjoyable conversation. You will find yourself using fun banter, making people laugh, and being unexpectedly witty.

This is essentially a form of improv – it helps you think on your feet. Start using it before you talk to people and you’ll find that overnight you become an incredibly creative speaker that never runs out of things to say.

How to Become a World-Class Listener

The most memorable and charismatic on earth are all brilliant listeners. Instead of thinking about what to say next, they make the other person feel heard and convey deep empathy and understanding.

There is a surprisingly simple technique that can help you become a world-class listener. The psychology behind it is downright fascinating.

Have you ever heard that mirroring someone else make them like you? It’s true. If you copy somebody’s body language they will unconsciously like you more.

Try it out next time you talk to someone – if they put their elbows on the table, put your elbows on the table. If they scratch their head, scratch your head. You’ll be surprised how incredibly effective the simple principle of mirroring can be.

It turns out mirroring can be applied to listening in a powerful way. This is a technique that I call Singing Their Song, because puts you into the mind of the other person and allows you to mirror not only their body language but their actual state of mind. You are singing their song, living life through their eyes.

Here’s how to become a better listener than anyone you know.

Sing Their Song

This technique is straightforward to practice. Next time you talk to someone, repeat what they say in your head, word for word. Mimic their vocal expression in your mind and try to feel the way they feel at this moment. Within seconds, you will feel a deep connection to them and will start to unconsciously mirror them.

This technique ensures that you listen to every word they say, and better yet, you feel what they feel. It may sound strange, but you’ll find that it is actually incredibly fun. You can learn a lot about another person by just repeating what they say. Give it a try the next time you want to make someone feel deeply understood.

How to Turn Disasters Into Opportunities

These shiny techniques are effective when you are in an upbeat mood, but what happens when things go wrong? Perhaps you get an unfriendly email, or one of your clients decides to throw a temper tantrum, or someone says something that insults you. When your mental state is compromised, your ability to connect with others goes out the window. You enter into fight or flight mode, cutting off any potentially life changing connections.

What if there was a way to turn disaster into empathy?

This is a deeply effective technique I learned from the book The Charisma Myth, by Olivia Fox Cabane. It works whenever something happens that throws you off your game. This technique helps you regain your calm and positivity by seeing the opportunity in your problems.

Here’s what to do.

Choosing Your Reality

Next time something unpleasant happens, imagine an explanation behind it that makes you view the event differently. Did somebody swerve in front of you on the highway? Maybe their son is having a medical emergency and they are speeding him to the hospital. Did someone you look up to give you harsh criticism? Maybe they are having the worst week of their life.

The point is this: we can choose how we interpret the events in our lives. So why not pick a reason that makes us feel compassion rather than anger or discomfort? Shifting your paradigm in this way can be an incredibly effective way to reevaluate negative events and circumstances. You will feel empathy and connection with other people rather than shrinking into your shell or cursing the world.

You can use this technique not only to reframe negative events, but to build rapport. For example, tell yourself that the person you are talking to is your future best friend. Or try saying in your head “I like you. And I like you just for you.” Choosing a more positive mental perspective is a tremendously powerful and help you blast through your barriers to connection.

A Story-Hunting Challenge

These three powerful techniques will have you leaping over your mental barriers to connection. Start using them, along with the Notice-Story-Why technique, and you will begin to connect with people like never before. You’ll become more confident and charismatic in social situations by orders of magnitude.

What to do today

I am giving you a story-hunting challenge: this week I want you to dig up at least one good story from a stranger or acquaintance using the Notice-Story-Why technique. Then, while you’re listening, use the Sing Their Song technique to put yourself in their shoes and build empathy. Let us know in the comments how it goes.

About the author

Ian Luebbers is the founder of Minerva, a site dedicated to helping introverted entrepreneurs nail their pitches effortlessly and instantly build authentic connections with anyone in the room. You can download his free report Speak Like Steve Jobs: The Introvert’s Secret Guide to Nailing Your Next Business Pitch.

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