Positive Talk

Published on: February 8, 2017

The art of human relations


Have you ever looked around and tried to determine what it is about people you like that causes you to feel that way? I think if you compare them, you will find they have a number of traits in common.

The first of the traits you will find in most people who we tend to like is that they have a good sense of humor,  and they brighten our world with what seems to be a perpetual smile. Nobody likes to deal with a Gloomy Gus—someone whose face is either in deep concentration or showing the effects of severe constipation. It only takes an instant to nod your head and smile at someone, but that gesture can be very important in establishing a relationship with those you meet.

Likable people rarely forget the names of the people with whom they deal. It may seem that remembering names is a God-given talent. However, I know that many of the people who are successful in remembering names have made a maximum effort to commit the names of those they meet to memory.

One thing we can do to help remember names is to repeat the name immediately upon it being given, and then use it several times during our initial conversation. If there is something unusual about the name, we can associate it with a word picture in our mind to help us remember. For instance, if the person’s name is Swan, we can associate it with a beautiful bird. If the name is more common, we can try associating it with the name of someone else who we already remember. An example of this would be my name, Bill. If upon meeting me, you remarked (either to yourself or out loud), “Your name is the same as one of our former presidents,” it will give you a hook on which to pin your memory for the next time we meet. Write the name down as soon as possible. The simple act of writing it down will reinforce it in your memory.

One of the most wondrous things to most of us is the sound of our own voice. If you wish to be truly liked, learn to be a good listener. Ask questions and encourage other  people to talk about themselves. If you can’t think of a question, just remember these lines from Kipling: “I keep six honest serving men (They taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.” Use these words and wait for a response. The flip side of being a good listener is being able to talk to the other party about things in which they are interested. To do that, you must learn what they are interested in by listening to the answers to your questions, then you know what to talk about.

Each man and woman has a story. Take the time to find out what that story is, and you will find that in your pool of acquaintances, there are people who are truly fascinating. Not too long ago, I had the good fortune to meet a man who had spent almost 45 years on the railroad. While sitting in a hospital waiting room, I began to ask him questions—more to pass the time than anything else. To my surprise, it turned out he was the engineer who picked up the A-bomb during World War II and began its transport to the West Coast. What a fascinating story he told! I could see his eyes come alive as he remembered being at the throttle of that mighty locomotive. When he concluded his story, he thanked me for listening and taking an interest in him.

As I left the waiting room, I heard him say to the man sitting next to him, “He was such a nice young man; I hope he comes back.” In truth, I had done nothing more than smile, listen, ask a few questions and show interest. But that’s what he needed, and I think that’s what we all need. How much nicer the world would be if we all remembered to do it.

William Hodges is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. He also hosts an interview-format television program, Spotlight on Government, on the Tampa Bay Community Network, that airs Mondays at 8 p.m. (Bright House channel 639, Verizon channel 30) and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (BH channel 638, Verizon channel 36). The shows can also be viewed at  Phone: 813-641-0816. Email:  Website: