You might not believe it but there was a time when I was really bad with people. In fact, I was so bad with people that I have the nickname ‘Scary Scott’ at the Christian Union because whilst I was on-target with my bible skills, I was wildly off-target with my people skills.

Luckily, I believed that you could learn leadership, that you could learn people skills, and that what one man can do, another can do. So it is that the connected, engaging, Like Minds uniting person you see before you is actually a result of nurture more than nature.

So today I just want to quickly distill HOW for me I learned to become a people’s person, and it’s wrapped up in what are the 4 ways to focus when you meet new people. What that means is this: there are 4 ways that you can focus upon meeting a new face, and each focus is where you put your energy and attention.

As it happens, these 4 lessons are very applicable to our digital selves, and also to brands and businesses:

1. How You Feel About Yourself

This is where many people are when they meet new people – they are so self-consumed that they don’t actually take good notice of the other person. I think we all are here sometimes when we are particularly distracted – perhaps we’re stressed, have received some good or bad news, that type of thing. But some people just live here all the time.

I might add here that online, this is where I think a large number of bloggers and tweeters live. They write from a very condescending perspective, only ever talk and link to their own stuff and so on.

Likewise, a lot of businesses market at this level. They brag about their features and their product without much regard to how others might feel about it.

2. How You Feel About The Other Person

If you’ve ever met someone and immediately there’s something about them that is our of the ordinary – either their appearance, their attitude, something they said – and you couldn’t get it out of your mind, then you’ve experienced this second way to meet people.

You do get some people that continually exist here – they are very much about how they felt about a person and their reactions to meeting someone new are only based on their own feelings. So it logically progresses that anything they say in meeting this person is to change how they feel themselves about this person.

I find that online we get people doing this in comments a lot. They respond to someone based on how they feel about what they said in the comment (normally a criticism, right?) You can spot it a mile off.

I’ll be quite honest with you – I’ve spent a lot of time here and sometimes regress when I face criticism myself. It’s an easy thing to do, and I would continue to do it were it not for my knowledge of these two better ways:

3. How The Other Person Feels About You

I would say that I spent a lot of my life here. I desperately wanted to be valued and so I would be focussing on what others felt about me. You know what this is like: saying things you think they want to hear, making your actions about how they’ll perceive you and so on.

Needless to say, this is a very, very taxing approach. And digitally it causes burnout. I can’t tell you how exhausting is it blogging and tweeting endlessly so that people will perceive you as some kind of Robert Scoble. I remember in July of 2009 and I was desperately trying to get into FriendFeed so that people would perceive me as an expert and hire me. I spent countless hours saying a lot of stuff and got nowhere with it. Why? Because I was all about how people felt about me, and not about:

4. How The Other Person Feels About Themselves

I wrote sometime ago that Social Media 101 was making people feel special. There is a saying in our church that people don’t remember what was said, they remember how they felt, and this is true for life. Scientifically, if you meet someone and make them feel great, they’ll remember you in a great light.

I remember when I learned this principle at 18 or 19 years of age, and it turned my life around. I began to focus on other people when I met them – being interested rather than seeking to be interesting – and it made a world of difference. Not only did it help me meet more people and more quickly connect with them, but it also changed my whole outlook on life. I now no longer try to ‘meet people well’, I just love finding out about them! It’s not a trick, it’s a genuine desire to find out about people!

When we use Social Media in this way – focussing on how people feel about themselves by encouraging them, providing them with utility and things that enhance their life (rather than getting us click throughs) you’ll find that you engagement goes through the roof. Your numbers might not, but then numbers don’t matter so much when you are adding real value to people.

This is something that my friend Robin Dickinson is exceptional at. He has spent hours helping and valuing me, and I have found so much energy and strength from our relationship. I’ve got his back whatever he does! In fact, you can check out his Sharewords post which is the perfect example of how to use social media to focus on others feel about themselves.

Your Leading Thoughts

  • Where do live on this scale? Where is your focus when you meet new people?
  • What lessons have you learned that could help the rest of us with meeting new people, either digitally or physically?

Archived Comments

  • http://www.12boxes.co.uk Malcolm Sleath

    “I’m OK. You’re OK.” “Mine the hidden gold in others”

  • / Scott Gould

    Welcome back :-)

  • http://www.adrianswinscoe.com/blog/ Adrian Swinscoe

    Hi Scott,
    One of the things that I have learnt, and it is a thing that I continue to learn, is to try press pause on the little voice or commentator that talks away in my head when I meet or talk or read or hear something about someone or something. This little voice starts talking and making judgements or assumptions about I have heard, seen or read and gets in the way of being open to what that person or thing is all about. It’s not easy but I try and hope that is allows me to build better relationships with those around me.


  • / Scott Gould

    Adrian – thank you for being so open. I have the same voice and am getting better at quietening it. Very often there is no voice now when there used to be!

  • http://dr1665.com Brian Driggs

    I’m in the same boat. Despite my often optimistic outpourings, it can still be a struggle.

    A recent discovery to that end, my CLO shared a resolution to “Assume positive intent in viewing the actions of others.” OMG. I was right there with him on every other intent, but I could not get behind that one. It was like the needle drug across a record mid-song; jarring, upsetting – dissonant.

    Why could I not assume good intentions were behind the actions of others? Well, what good intention leads to driving like THAT, or professing such an OBTUSE political belief? How can there be good intentions behind mindless consumerism?

    I realized I’d fallen into something of an assumptive trap. The CLO didn’t expressly resolve to assume positive intent when considering EVERY action of EVERYONE, merely a desire to develop a more optimistic view of people in general. To that end, I still find myself unwilling (it’s not a question of ability) to make such positive assumptions about people in general, BUT this internal dialogue resulted in my deciding to stretch myself.

    So, for starters, I’m looking to NOT assume NEGATIVE intent in viewing the actions of others. Perhaps this is a sort of psychological SMART goal in process. :P

  • http://radsmarts.com Robin Dickinson

    When I meet new people, my focus is simply to honour them in the short time and space we share i.e. listen to them; hear them; feel them; make it safe for them to have a different opinion or point of view from mine; resist the urge to segue everything they say back to me and my story.

    Happy New Year, Scott. Talk soon.

    Robin :)

  • / Scott Gould

    Robin, you are excellent at this – and you know why? – because you’re 100% sincere and behind that person.

    That is why I value you so highly – because every time we’ve talked and you’ve imparted to me (which is every time), you were there taking notes and learning for yourself too – you were genuinely interested in hearing what I had to say.

    Love it!

  • Becky Jenkins

    This is a great article, a very simple thing to remember is that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in that order, ie listen more, i mean really listen, tune in, be in the moment, focus, but it is easier said than done. A little practise goes along way!

  • / Scott Gould

    hey Becky – it’s the little things like that that we need to keep remembering – thanks for the encouragement!