In any situation – especially any social situation – go first. Always, always, always go first.
What does going first mean?
It means that, if you really want to go out to eat on a certain night, that youâ€™re the first to suggest a place.
It means that, if youâ€™re interested in a guy and you want to go out with him on a date, ask him. Even tell him how you feel about him (though, asking him out has the same effect).
It means that, if you want someone in a relationship to open up about deeper issues, you should open up first. Lead the way, and people will follow.
Being a Leader Means Others Will Follow
People are much better at following than they are at being a leader. They like having examples to follow. They like knowing that itâ€™s okay for them to do certain things once someone – a leader – has made them socially acceptable to do.
Imagine that youâ€™re out getting lunch with one of your friends, and they bring up the topic of religion. Since religion is a notoriously provocative topic, you have a couple of choices: you can either join them in the discussion, or you can tell them you donâ€™t want to talk about it.
If you actually wanted to talk about religion and were too afraid to bring it up for fear of it being rejected by your friend (and nobody likes feeling rejected), then youâ€™d feel safe to talk about it after they brought it up. If they want to talk about it, you figure, itâ€™s a â€œsafeâ€ topic and thereâ€™s no problem. By taking the first step and going first, your friend led the interaction and put themselves on the line: you could either go with them and talk about religion because they made it a safe thing to talk about, or you couldâ€™ve shut it down, and rejected them.
By taking the risk of rejection, though, they opened up the conversation – especially if you were too scared or anxious to bring up religion on its own. They led, so it made it much easier for you to follow. They took all the risk of introducing the topic upon themselves.
This same principle can be done anywhere. If you want people to talk to you, initiate conversations with them, since it will show them that you are open and willing to connecting with them. Most people arenâ€™t sure what others think of them, so theyâ€™re hesitant to initiate conversations; this phenomenon is why a lot of people (introverts, mostly) are a lot more comfortable and extroverted when theyâ€™re around people they know. Since theyâ€™re around friends, they feel like they have been granted the â€œpermissionâ€ to be themselves.
By being a leader – by going first and dictating what is acceptable – you can help just about everyone out in your life. By being open and nonjudgmental, youâ€™ll allow others to open up, because youâ€™ve already demonstrated that being open and honest is valued and permissible.
If you want people to do good work and contribute, ask them to. Show them that youâ€™re not expecting to do everything yourself and that, yes, you too need help, even if youâ€™re seen as independent and have a lot of leadership ability. Ask for help if you need it. That way, your group members – your team – will follow suit and contribute. They also wonâ€™t be afraid to ask for help if they ever need it, since youâ€™ve already set the example.
People are always wondering what they are allowed to do and theyâ€™re waiting for someone to show them.
Set them free and go first. Show them what is possible.