The Importance of Being Earnest
"Every man is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
We all have things we are especially good at. We are intrinsically motivated to these things, and take pride in our work. It can be very rewarding to have others compliment us on these things, and very disheartening to have them dismissed.
Dale Carnegie said that a way to make people like you instantly is to make them feel important - and do it sincerely. Nobody likes cheap flattery, but everyone appreciates honest recognition of their talents. There is nothing I appreciate more then someone saying "you're good at phrasing things - how should I present this material?" I can't recall ever turning down someone who asked that question.
In Pre-suasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini suggests that one of the best ways to gain the support of someone is to ask their advice. Acknowledging that a person has insights that are useful to you is likely to make them feel important, and in turn inclined to help you. Cialdini quotes Saul Bellow: "When we ask for advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice." Bellow understood the power of importance. It draws on two of the weapons of influence: reciprocation (our desire to return a favor) and liking (the tendency to do things for people we like.)
But don't forget Carnegie's caution - whether seeking advice or trying to win friends, the feeling of importance must be sincere. Look for those things that make each person your superior in some way, and compliment them on it. Whether it is their fashion sense or their attention to detail, if it is something they take care to do well you can be sure they will appreciate your acknowledgement of its importance.
How many people did you talk to today? In what ways were each of them your superior? If the answer doesn't come easily, you probably should pay more attention.