When I walk on stage, people are asking themselves 2 questions:
- Can I trust this person?
- Can I respect this person?
In life it’s no different.
Every person you meet is asking themselves those two questions about you in the first seconds of your conversation.
This article is how I, as a professional liar (ie: Mentalist), still get people to trust me despite them knowing I’m going to lie to them. You can apply these principles no matter how big or small your stage; whether it’s on national TV, Carnegie Hall, a boardroom, or a first date.
“An Honest Liar”
That’s one of my favorite sayings from my mentor, James Randi. There’s a 2014 documentary about him titled “An Honest Liar” and it’s an incredible dive into the life & myth of a showman.
So how do you get a room full of people to trust you when they know you’re going to lie to them? Tell them you’re going to lie to them. That’s the “honest” part.
Be up front with people about what you’re looking for. Own up to what you want out of life.
If you keep people guessing as to your intentions, they’re not going to trust you.
It also helps to love your audience.
My great friend David Hira is one of the best speakers in the business. He worked in the corporate world for years as an executive of a major company before going full-time with his speaking career.
He told me about a conversation he had with the daughter of an old-time magician named Thurston. She said her father would stand behind the curtain as people were arriving, and imagine every seat in the auditorium and tell each person who came to see him perform, “I love you!” Every single seat.
When he was done, they’d open the curtains and he’d step forward radiating his love for the audience. His audience would immediately feel the warmth in his smile as he genuinely loved his audience.
Here’s an excerpt from “How to Win Friends & Influence People” where Carnegie interviewed Thurston about this, too.
Thurston had a genuine interest in people. He told me that many magicians would look at the audience and say to themselves, “Well, there is a bunch of suckers out there, a bunch of hicks; I’ll fool them all right.” But Thurston’s method was totally different. He told me that every time he went on stage he said to himself: “I am grateful because these people come to see me, They make it possible for me to make my living in a very agreeable way. I’m going to give them the very best I possibly can.”
He declared he never stepped in front of the footlights without first saying to himself over and over: “I love my audience. I love my audience.” Ridiculous? Absurd? You are privileged to think anything you like. I am merely passing it on to you without comment as a recipe used by one of the most famous magicians of all time.
How could you not fall in love with someone who radiates that kind of love for you?
If you want people to trust you, you have to be warm and genuinely be interested in letting people past your defences.
“I don’t get no respect!”
Rodney Dangerfield was a comedian who used that catchphrase for decades. His act was one story after another about how the people in his life would walk all over him.
It’s absolutely hilarious. . . until it happens to you.
Respect is a function of how competent people think you are. Dangerfield’s character was a bumbling idiot, so it made sense that he’d get no respect.
Audiences want the performer to be competent.
There’s nothing more awkward than watching a magician bumbling his way through a routine. He lacks the skills, polish, and experience to do his job properly. It shows a lack of consideration & respect for his audience, so it’s no mystery why he would lose the respect of the crowd.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Ironically, however, in life off-stage too much focus on competence is actually hurtful. Too often people focus most of their energy on developing the work skills (competence) at the expense of the people skills (warmth & trust).
If people don’t trust you first, your skills will be seen as a threat.
Make sure you’re not missing the human element of the equation. That’s why the social butterflies seem to get all the promotions & opportunities even if they may not have your skills.
Learn how to connect with people first. Let them know who you are. Then they’ll care about what you can do.
Once you master that, you’ll make friends everywhere you go!