Back in the days when I was green behind the ears, trying to navigate the wild waters of startup culture, I had one of those “think you’re the king of the world” moments. There I was, suited up, confidently walking into this swanky conference in the Big Apple, thinking I’d unlocked the secret level of networking. But man, life has a way of humbling you in the quirkiest ways.

Cue: me, casually strolling into the hotel, getting a nod from the janitor who was cleaning up some mess. We shared a quick chat – nothing profound – mostly about how crazy New York traffic was and how I liked my coffee black, no sugar. Fast forward to the next morning, the same guy greets me by my name, recalls our little chit-chat, and even jokes about the coffee.

Wait, what? Here I was, the so-called “executive,” getting schooled on connection by a janitor.

The humbling truth slapped me harder than a cold New York winter breeze: he, with his genuine interest in people, likely had more genuine connections in that hotel than I had contacts in my premium, leather-bound planner. It was a literal, coffee-spilling, lightbulb moment for me.

So, why am I sharing this, you ask? It’s not about the nostalgia. Nope. It’s about reminding you, the new-age digital native, about the OG art of creating legit, IRL connections. In an era where ‘swipe left’ or ‘seen-zoned’ is the vibe, let me tell you, genuine charisma never goes out of style.

Show Genuine Interest

Here’s the lowdown: We live in a world where your latest selfie can get a hundred likes, but can you recall the last time someone asked you how you really felt and genuinely cared about the answer? Feeling a bit stumped? No surprise there. Authentic human connections have taken a backseat, and it’s damn time we hit the reverse.

We’re not just talking about those polite, “How’s the weather?” or “Did you catch the game last night?” kind of interactions. Nah, man. It’s about asking your co-worker about their latest hiking adventure or discussing that crazy new series they’ve been binging on.

Why’s this a total game-changer? People can smell pretense from a mile away. You ever met someone and felt like they’re just waiting for their turn to speak? Don’t be that person. When you’re genuinely interested in what someone’s saying, it’s like you’re giving them a VIP ticket to a club where they’re the star. And who wouldn’t love that?

Now, a hot tip for ya – and don’t you dare roll your eyes because it’s so damn simple. Next time you’re chilling at that trendy coffee shop, don’t just bury your nose in your phone. Engage. Chat with the barista. Maybe they’ve got some wild tales from the world of latte art or some thoughts on that new indie band. It’s a small gesture, but by giving them your time and genuine curiosity, you’re telling them they matter.

But hey, real talk: It ain’t just about making others feel good. It’s also selfish – in a good way! Genuine interest opens up doors. It could lead to the juiciest gossip, a potential business partner, or hey, maybe even a date next Friday night. Who knows? But trust me on this, once you start, you’ll be hooked. You’ll be like a kid in a candy store, eagerly awaiting the next story or shared experience.

So, next time you’re tempted to hit autopilot and nod your way through a convo, resist! Dive deep. Be that human who genuinely gives a damn. It’s refreshing as hell in a world full of surface-level chit-chat. And, not to sound all ancient philosopher on you, but these connections? They’re the threads that weave the damn fine tapestry of life.

Active Listening

Let’s paint a scenario. You’re at a bustling party. The bass is thumping, and there’s a dude in the corner, animatedly talking about his recent backpacking trip across Europe. But here’s the catch: you, my friend, are barely hanging on to every third word, distracted by the flashing lights, the hilarious dance moves, and the tantalizing aroma of those mini pizzas. I mean, I get it. Mini pizzas are dope. But that, right there? That ain’t active listening.

Active listening is when you dial in, full volume, to what someone’s saying – body, mind, and soul. It’s not just about lending an ear; it’s about showing that person that, for those moments, they’re the center of your universe. No distractions. No mini pizzas. Just pure, unadulterated attention.

Why’s this move a game-changer? Picture this: you’ve had a crappy day. Everything that could go wrong did. Now, if you vented to someone who kept glancing at their watch or nodded without truly engaging, how’d you feel? Pretty damn lousy, right? Now, imagine spilling those beans to someone who’s all in – offering reactions at the right spots, asking questions, and really feeling your vibe. It’s like emotional CPR. Suddenly, the world ain’t all that bleak.

You might be thinking, “Sounds easy, bro.” Nah. It’s not. Active listening is a damn art. You see, our brains are cheeky. They love wandering around, dreaming of that beach vacay or plotting revenge against Karen from accounting. But here’s the hot tip: engage. Respond. Probe deeper. Ask open-ended questions like, “How did that make you feel?” or “Then what happened?”

And let’s debunk a myth real quick: multitasking while listening? Nah, it doesn’t make you a productivity god. It makes you a crappy listener. Sorry, not sorry. But trust me, when you master the art of active listening, it’s like unlocking a superpower. You understand people better, form deeper connections, and – here’s the kicker – they’ll want to return the favor. Before you know it, you’ve got a circle of folks who are tuned in, truly and deeply, to each other.

The next time you find yourself in a conversation, challenge yourself. Ditch those distractions, lock in, and listen – really, truly listen. Because in a world buzzing with noise, giving someone your undivided attention? That’s the realest gift you can offer.

Remembering Names

If there’s one thing that’s been a certified power move in my career, it’s this: remembering names. I mean, it sounds so damn simple, right? But let me drop a bomb here – most of us are straight-up garbage at it. You meet someone, they drop their name, and two seconds later, you’re like, “Sorry, what was it again? Steve? Stan? Spaghetti?”

First off, let’s squash that played-out excuse: “I’m just terrible with names.” Nah, you’re not. You’re just not making it a priority. And before you roll your eyes and say, “Why the hell should I?”, listen up. Names are powerful. They’re identity. They’re pride. When someone hears their own name, it’s like music to their ears. No joke.

Imagine you’re at a massive conference, mingling with a sea of faces. You bump into someone you met for like five minutes last year, and you nail their name. Boom! Watch their face light up. Why? Because by remembering their name, you’re sending a clear message: “You matter. You left an impression. I care enough to remember you.”

So, why is this such a game-changer in the world of business, networking, and, hell, life in general? Because it fosters trust and creates an immediate bond. It’s a little gesture that packs a mighty punch. It says, “Out of all the peeps I’ve met, I remembered you.” That’s potent stuff right there.

Now, for the magic sauce: How do you get better at it? First, when you hear a name, say it out loud. “Great to meet you, Monica.” Saying it reinforces it in your brain. Next up, associate. This is a goldmine, trust me. Link their name to something familiar. Maybe Monica reminds you of Monica Geller from ‘Friends.’ Maybe she’s got a similar hairdo, or perhaps she has that chef-y vibe. Either way, that association will be your lifeline the next time you see her.

And if you’re feeling brave? Use it in the convo a few times. Not in a creepy, over-the-top way, but casually. “So, Monica, what brings you here?” “Monica, have you tried these hors d’oeuvres?” By the end of the chat, her name will be etched into your brain like the chorus of a catchy pop song.

Look, we’re swimming in an ocean of digital connections, swipes, and superficial chit-chats. In this world, remembering names is like wielding Excalibur. It sets you apart. It makes you memorable. And, in the long run, it paves the way for genuine, deep-rooted connections.

Admiring Honestly

No, I’m not talking about the kind where you’re kissing ass and throwing out fake compliments left and right. I’m talking legit, heart-felt, damn-I-really-like-your-vibes type of admiration.

Let’s face it, in a world swamped with filters, photoshops, and that bloody “influencer” vibe, being real has become a sort of superpower. And I’ll let you in on a secret – people have a sixth sense for sniffing out the BS. You think you’re fooling anyone with that “Oh, I love your shoes!” when you clearly couldn’t care less? Pfft. Here’s the deal-breaker: they know.

Which brings me to my myth-buster moment: “People can’t tell if I’m being fake.” Hell to the no, they can. We’ve all got this built-in fake-detector, and trust me, when the alarms go off, it’s hard to silence ’em.

So, why is genuine admiration such a game-changer? Because it lays down the groundwork for trust. When you tell someone, “I genuinely admire your work ethic,” or “Your passion for animal rights? Damn inspiring!” and you mean it, it’s not just a compliment. It’s an acknowledgment of their worth. Their value. It’s a freakin’ connection-starter.

But here’s where a lot of folks trip up. They’re thinking, “But what if there’s nothing to admire?” Well, mate, you’re not looking hard enough. Everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE – has something admirable about them. Maybe it’s their dedication to a cause, their infectious enthusiasm, or just their killer sense of style. Hell, maybe it’s their unapologetic love for cheesy ’80s music. There’s always something. Your job? Find it.

And once you’ve found it? Celebrate it. Not in a weird, overbearing, “I’m-your-number-one-fan” way, but in a way that says, “I see you. I appreciate you.”

Hot tip coming your way: the next time you’re in a group setting, be it a meeting, a party, or just a casual hangout – make it your mission to find one thing to genuinely admire about each person you talk to. It could be as big as their accomplishments or as small as their choice in kicks. And then? Tell them. Watch the walls come down and the connections bloom.

Because at the end of the day, we all just want to be seen, to be acknowledged, to be valued. Genuine admiration does that. It’s like a bloody magic wand that turns small talk into deep dives, acquaintances into pals, and connections into friendships.

Seek to Understand

Let’s get straight into the heart of making real connections: understanding. If “showing genuine interest” is the door to forming a bond, then “understanding” is the key to that door.

Let’s unpack this, shall we? Understanding isn’t just about nodding your head to someone’s tunes or giving them a thumbs up for their 10k run. Nah, it’s deeper than that. It’s about diving into what makes them tick, getting the rhythm of their beats, and figuring out why they do what they do. It’s like being a detective, but cooler. A connection detective.

Ever been at a party, and while everyone’s discussing the latest season of some popular show, there’s that one person in the corner, lost in thought, looking all mysterious and shit? What’s their story? Maybe they just finished writing the first chapter of their book, or maybe they’ve just come up with an idea for an eco-friendly startup. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to get in there and figure it out.

Why is this a game-changer? Because nothing bonds people more than shared passions. Hell, even shared dislikes can spark a connection (Looking at you, pineapple on pizza haters). When you get someone chatting about what they love, whether it’s their dream project, their pets, or even that weird hobby of collecting vintage soda cans, you see them light up, and that light? It’s freaking contagious.

Now, let’s say you’ve hit a roadblock. You’ve found their passion – but it’s something you know zip about. Don’t freak out. This is your chance to learn, to expand those horizons. Get them talking, ask questions, be genuinely curious. You might not become an overnight expert, but you’ve shown them you care. You’ve shown understanding.

Hot tip coming at ya: The next time you’re shooting the breeze with someone, toss out the usual “How’s the weather?” and instead ask, “What’s been the highlight of your week?” or “What’s the last thing that got you super excited?” You’d be surprised how often people are eager to share when someone actually shows they want to listen.

I get it, in the grand orchestra of life, with its chaotic tunes and melodies, finding understanding might seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. But the rewards? Oh, they’re sweeter than the sickest beat drop.


Let’s talk about something even more essential than coffee: Empathizing. You might think, “Empathizing? Damn, sounds deep.” And, you’re right. It is. And it’s the real secret sauce to connecting on a level that’s more profound than discussing the latest Instagram filter trend.

So, what’s the lowdown on empathizing? Think of it as this superpower we all have but often forget to use. It’s about feeling with someone, not just feeling for them. There’s a world of difference between the two. While the former involves diving into the pool with them, the latter is like throwing them a lifebuoy while chilling on a sun lounger. Big difference, right?

Now for the myth-buster moment: “I don’t get them.” Well, maybe you haven’t tried. And by trying, I don’t mean just a half-hearted attempt. I’m talking about going full in. Like, putting on their shoes, imagining what pebbles they might have inside, and walking a mile (or even just a few steps) in them. By doing so, you’ll realize that their journey, struggles, joys, and sorrows aren’t all that different from yours.

Why’s this a game-changer? Because understanding is good, but empathizing is where you really start bridging gaps. Remember that old saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”? It’s true. And by tapping into your empathy, you’re showing them that they’re not alone in that battle. That you’re in their corner, cheering them on.

Here’s a hot tip for ya: The next time you’re tempted to roll your eyes, dismiss someone’s feelings, or judge them based on your perspective, just hit pause. Imagine their day, their past experiences, their dreams, and their struggles. It’s like watching a movie from another character’s viewpoint. Suddenly, things that seemed irrational or odd start to make sense. And that’s when the magic happens. That’s when connections deepen.

Empathizing, my friend, is the glue in this wild puzzle of human connections. It might be messy, it might require effort, and hell, it might even be a little uncomfortable at times. But the end picture? It’s a masterpiece of connections that are real, deep, and lasting.


After this ride down connection lane, you’re probably sitting there, iced latte in hand (or maybe that’s just me), pondering how to implement all this jazz. Well, let me break it down for you.

Connections, as you’ve seen, isn’t about networking events, swanky business cards, or how tight your LinkedIn game is. Nah, it’s so much deeper. It’s about authentic, heart-to-heart, “I see you” kind of connections. The type where you know your mate’s coffee order by heart or the name of their childhood pet. Sounds simple, but as we’ve seen, it requires a little bit of, shall we say, inner elbow grease.

Whether you’re sliding into DMs, chatting up someone at the local brew joint, or catching up with an old mate, the principles are the same. You’ve got to:

  1. Show Genuine Interest: Because no one wants to feel like just another face in the crowd.
  2. Listen Actively: Stop, drop, and really tune in. It’s like HD for conversations.
  3. Remember Names: It’s the difference between, “Hey, you!” and “Hey, Jamie!”
  4. Admire Honestly: Skip the bull and go straight for the genuine compliments.
  5. Seek to Understand: Because it’s cooler to get the full story than just the trailer.
  6. Empathize: Walk in their shoes, feel their vibe, and be their hype squad.

What does all this boil down to? It’s not rocket science. It’s heart science. It’s realizing that behind every username, every profile pic, every emoji, there’s a real human being with dreams, fears, Netflix shows they’re binging, and weird food combinations they love.

So, here’s my challenge for you, cool cat: Make a genuine connection daily. Just one. That’s it. Whether it’s with the mail carrier, a coworker, or a longtime pal. Dive deep. Skip the weather chat and ask about their latest passion project or their favorite childhood memory. See where it takes you. I bet you’ll be surprised.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.