Making conversation with someone in your office who’s higher up than you, a stranger you’re interested in, or someone you want to impress is just not easy for most people—unless you’re good at it, in which case: I’m impressed.
But a new study in the Academy of Management Journal and reported by Science of Us reveals how you can get a leg up on the elusive act of schmoozing with one simple trick: convince yourself to authentically, truly like the person you’re sucking up to.
“When we really like someone…we don’t need to act, [we] just let our feelings come through,” says Alex Fradera, writing about the study in BPS Research Digest. “Increasing one’s authentic liking for a person would therefore be very helpful.”
When two people are not on equal footing (AKA the person you’re speaking with is higher up than you career-wise), psychologists call it the “ingratiator’s dilemma,” according to the article. This is when the social interaction includes a person who has more so-called power which you stand to benefit from (like a potential employer). The interesting part of the study (which is called “Psyched Up to Suck Up”), however, says that these people are also more likely to read insecurity and insincerity.
“Detecting unnatural behavior comes fairly easily, especially if you know what to look for,” Fradera says, “meaning pretenders are one feigned smile or wavering compliment away from being dismissed as a brown-noser.”
The study also reveals that we like those who resemble ourselves (surprised?). So for successful schmoozing, focus on commonalities between you and your conversation partner. This makes the person more like you, and what’s easier than chatting with someone like yourself?