How does Leslie Knope do it??
December 5, 2013 4:49 AM   Subscribe

How to 'fake it' and keep faking it/how to be more high-energy in social interactions

Hi bright high energy mefites!!

I am trying to be more positive and high energy in my everyday interactions (not to the extent of irritating, but I come off really passive at the moment). I've heard of 'faking it till you make it' and making more eye contact and using your body language. These are all tips that work well, but I forget sometimes and slip back into my lower-energy buzz. How do I fake it for a sustained amount of time? Bright happy positive people of askmefi how do you do it??

Thanks! :D
posted by dinosaurprincess to Human Relations (16 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Hi, another faker here. I've found that as long as you keep your chin up, make eye contact, and plant a vaguely pleasant expression on your face, people will think you're charming and engaging and you don't have to say a goddamned thing.

So, when you're feeling like you want to go curl up on the couch and snarl at people (ok, maybe you're not as bad as me, though), just shut up and at least make yourself look like you're enjoying others' company. It let's you kind of turn your social brain off for a few minutes.
posted by phunniemee at 4:55 AM on December 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Exercise. Lots of it.


Structure your day. Set aside specific times to do certain tasks.

Either be working or playing. Do not mix the two, to the extent possible. The worst possible thing is to be in a haze where you are neither being productive nor relaxing yourself.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:00 AM on December 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

Another vote to just smile at people and make eye contact. Say hello cheerfully.

That's really all there is to it. See someone, smile! See another person, smile! A stranger? smile!

This all started under an idea to smile at people and maybe I could brighten their day a little. It's great when you get a smile back. I do it so automatically now that I catch myself after the fact and wonder why the hell am I smiling when I'm Not Happy And Everyone Should Know It.
posted by royalsong at 6:02 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I begin a work interaction that I want to seem not-bored, I find it sometimes helps to start by exclaiming the addressee's name or "Yo!" and and clapping my fist into an open palm or pointing at them vigorously.
posted by ignignokt at 6:07 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I'm going to suggest something that comes backed by zero qualifications and experience, so feel free to ignore this reply completely. The suggestions you've listed - eye contact and body language - are fundamentally suggestions about yourself; whereas you might try thinking about the specific other person in your interaction - concentrating on what they are doing, and listening and thinking about what they are saying. Then you don't have to fake anything, you just have to concentrate on the other person. In other words, stop being concerned about whether you are faking a certain energy level and just interest yourself in the person you are interacting with, and respond to them in a way that makes them feel good.

To put the whole thing another way, if you really want to "make an effort" with people, don't exert yourself in being fake. Exert yourself in giving them your honest attention and concern. Then you won't be bullshitting them or yourself.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:20 AM on December 5, 2013 [22 favorites]

That being said, smiling at people (as suggested by phunniemee and royalsong) is a more practical and probably more effective suggestion! :-)
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:26 AM on December 5, 2013

Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People. Still relevant after all these years.

"Fake it til you make it" is only one approach. The Carnegie approach is different, and works by changing your internal perspective. Find other people interesting, and let them know you find them interesting, and most of the rest will come out with the wash.
posted by pie ninja at 7:04 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am a crabby misanthrope who is regularly called out as being "too cheery" (in a friendly joking way ... I think) at work. For me it's mostly being generally pleasant/smiling when I'm just walking around (as in, I smile most of the time, not just when I see someone) and asking after people "Hi $NAME, how was your holiday?" (which I only sort of care about but I care about people and want them to feel I care about them and this is how people do that) and hang out to chitchat for a few minutes before I head to whatever I am doing even though I'd really really like to get to where I am going.

Basically I assume that when I am in public I am not really in my own private space and so acting like I have a protective bubble around me can come off as rude. So this means in the supermarket or in the post office or at work I have to be ready for the smile-pause-chat routine and be decent at it. It's made a huge difference at work. This does mean that my train of thought gets interrupted and sometimes I'm jolted out of whatever I was thinking/doing but that's just part of what happens. If, for some reason, i really don't want to be disturbed, I'll wear headphones or be somewhat apologetic "Hey sorry I've really got to get to this thing" and since it's not my usual MO people are a lot more understanding.

Eye contact
Pleasant Expression
posted by jessamyn at 8:01 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Exercise keeps my energy levels high. It allows me to focus and not let anxiety get the better of me. Agreeing with others in the thread that learning how to take and express interest in others is equally important. This for me is genuine. I really enjoy meeting and connecting with people. There is no faking it for me. I have a decent memory, so I know things about people I deal with. So before I get down to business, I'll ask how they are and maybe ask about something we spoke about previously ("Hey, last time we met, Emma was getting ready for her dance recital. How did it go?" or similar).

I wasn't always this way. At the start of my full-time working life (at 18) I had a tendency to mumble and could not make eye contact easily, even with friends. Luckily I had a boss who sat me down, talked about this with me kindly, and helped me work on it. I amazed at how differently I am treated these days. My confidence in myself seems to have given people confidence in me. Being happy and positive out in the world has made me happy and positive within myself. It's been a long learning process but I'm loving the outcome.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:07 AM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pay attention to tone of voice. Speaking with more energy seems to create more energy, just keep it positive and fun.
posted by little_dog_laughing at 8:28 AM on December 5, 2013

You're going to instinctually hate this, but if it was something you loved you'd already be instinctually doing it. Here goes:

Go into every room, every encounter, every outside-your-house foray assuming everyone out there is your friend. They're the sort of people you like. Of COURSE they are! And if they prove themselves otherwise, know Larry (or Kate, or whatever the mopey stranger's called). S/he runs hot and cold! You're just catching them at an off moment! That's all! You're really stoked to see them, talk to them, engage with them. It's JUST what you wanted! I mean, maybe it'll go badly, and maybe they won't rise to your expectations. But positive/chipper is just as valid a generalization as negative/dour, right?

It's really no more than that. Assume everyone's cool, smart, comprehending, kind, and AWESOME! Until proven otherwise. And when proven otherwise, keep extending benefit of doubt. Infinitely.

It sounds vapid and ditzy, but if you'll do it, it helps tremendously. And, in the end, you may come to agree that it's actually a sounder approach for social (and business) engagement than a wary suspicion that everyone's a shmuck or a snake.

Everyone waits for everyone else to provide the initiative, the energy, the momentum. To be that person, you need to pivot, and assume everyone's AWESOME and ready to go. And not give up easily. And if you have to give up, fine, well, just move on without regret.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:04 AM on December 5, 2013

PS - "How to Win Friends and Influence People" might be the most corny, dowdy sounding book imaginable; a throwback to the days of Readers Digest and Leave it to Beaver. But the principles therein actually work, which is why it was an enormous hit in its time. You need to get past the outdated cultural references and styles, but the wisdom therein is timeless. So if you don't like my more natural suggestion, immediately above, this is another alternative.
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:11 AM on December 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A piece of advice I read on another AskMe thread (I sincerely apologize for forgetting who the poster was) has really proved efficacious for me when I need to be "on": Be 30% friendlier than you feel like being.

I think it works so well because 30% doesn't seem like too tall an order but it's plenty for achieving that little extra connection with people.
posted by Jess the Mess at 10:35 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Agreed, Jess.

Even 1% helps, because people can sniff the "intention" (even if only subconsciously).
posted by Quisp Lover at 10:37 AM on December 5, 2013

Best answer: I don't consider myself especially bubbly, extroverted, happy or high-energy person at all. I consider myself a shy, nerdy, introvert. I'm someone who mostly is a homebody, and doesn't love interpersonal interaction, really.

However, not many people would agree with that assessment, except those who know me really well. People consider me happy and bubbly and mostly positive. Also 'sweet' is something I get a lot. As well as kind, and funny and happy and all manner of things I don't feel I really am inside.

Why is that? Mostly, I just faked it. I act cheery, and the more I do it, the easier it is.

That may not be genuine, but I will say, that even working on myself, it's really hard to be high-energy and bubbly if you just don't naturally have the tendency. Especially for me as an introvert; it's draining to always be in that 'mode'. I personally would love to be naturally bubbly, but often default to passiveness, especially in my own time-- at work I am more 'on'. In my experience it's an ongoing battle against inertia. So I can't really help you to become more bright and bubbly inside, because I think I personally just lack a switch to change my fundamental inner character.

But what I can tell you is what I personally do to appear bright and cheery to others-- and people I meet tend to have a similar perception of me.

I will say something, though-- the more I self-correct the behavior, the easier it is to adopt better habits, and the more it comes 'natural'. So there is some truth in 'fake it til you make it.'

In my experience, the following helped me a lot with feeling more positive in general:

- Not sweating the petty stuff. (If I get cut off in traffic or something, or lots of red lights, or I'm late-- it really doesn't get to me too much. I try not to dwell on things that are a waste of time to be upset over, or escalate things that would be silly to get angry or upset over).
- Don't things out on others. (Snapping at someone because someone was mean to me is counterproductive. Moreover, griping tends to cloud people's opinion of you, same with being a misery maven. Negativity begets negativity. Besides, nobody likes 'that guy', they avoid talking to that guy.)
- Being grateful. (This is tough for me even now because I compare myself a lot, but I find when I'm focusing on the things I'm grateful for, it really helps to shift my mood)
- Exercising and eating right. (The working out helps to boost my endorphins, which actually gets me all fired up and positive. The eating 'right' helps me psychologically, too.)
- Regular sleep. (Nothing saps my energy like staying up, which in turn makes me not really ready to deal with stress the next day).

Things that have helped me specifically with interacting with other people:
- Smiling a lot-- eye contact, open body language, appearing approachable.
- Tone of voice. (I find this is super important. Talking with a slight lilt. It might seem idiotic, but if you talk as if you're stupidly happy, you tend to kind of exude energy and enthusiasm. It can really be the difference between a flat 'hi' and a melodic, 'hel-lo!' This takes work to seem genuine-- I call on my HS drama skills a little, but honestly? Most people are not as adept at picking up on fakery as much as they think they are.)
- Using positive connotative words. (For example, if someone asks, 'can you do this?' I try to say something like 'of course!' instead of something like; 'sure thing'.)
- Truly listening ('I can't believe you remembered that!' is something that people tell me a lot. People loved to be listened to, and asked questions about. People are good at telling when someone is tuning out, and it's super hurtful. Instead, nothing says 'I care' like genuinely listening.
- Empathy over sympathy. (Brene Brown talks about this a little in one of her books. The gist of it is that sympathy tends to divide, but empathy tends to connect.)
- Justifying bad behavior. (I do this so I don't react badly to someone. For example, someone cut me off in traffic? I won't angrily cut him off back, I'll just assume he probably has a pregnant wife he's rushing to. Someone was rude? Maybe they had a bad day today.)

Lastly, if I meet someone super passive, I kinda abide by the 'kill them with kindness' adage.

In those cases, I sometimes, I do little experiments. I ask myself, 'if I genuinely pay attention to this person, can I make their day? Or if someone is visibly in a bad mood, can I turn their frown upside-down? Can I make someone react with positivity, if I'm positive towards them?'

I often try this with jaded grocery store clerks and the like, and the answer is usually yes. It's actually really fun and fulfilling to genuinely try and make someone's day better. I suggest you approach it that way a little.

I hope that helps.

Good luck!
posted by Dimes at 10:41 AM on December 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Imagine you're a dog. I so admire the way dogs are always "OH HEY! I'm so excited to see you!" - and they're just the ones who've only just met you. Of course this approach only works in terms of general attitude (dogs aren't really known for keeping a conversation going), but I've often found it useful myself!
posted by raspberry-ripple at 2:07 PM on December 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

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