When you’re on a journey to self-made success, you might meet a millionaire along the way. Part of the process of becoming a self-made millionaire is to meet and network with people who are already successful. Meeting a wealthy person might make you nervous the first time, which is understandable. Unfortunately, no one ever teaches you how to speak to a successful person and make a good impression. Furthermore, it could ultimately make or break your chances of networking with the right people.
Millionaires are normal people, just like you and me. The only difference is that they are hard workers who made good choices with their money. When I entered my 20’s, I was lucky enough to begin meeting and working with more millionaires than I can count. There are plenty of clichés that people make when talking to them for the first time. There are also red flags that will tell them never to speak to you again, so we compiled some topics you should avoid when meeting a millionaire.
25. “What Do You Do?”
Few questions are more dreaded than the incredibly tedious boilerplate “getting to know you” chitchat than “what do you do?” It’s generic, it’s vague, and while most people mean it to ask what your job title is or what industry you’re in, the wording is honestly quite rude. It’s almost like asking the person to justify their own existence because what do they even do every day. Suppose you’re interested in questioning a wealthy person about their livelihood. In that case, there are countless better ways to ask about their job or industry than the vague, generic, and boring “what do you do?”
Some great alternatives are “what industry do you work in?” As long as you know that the person is employed or works somehow, this is a great opening. It allows the person to discuss their industry even if they don’t want to discuss the particulars of their exact job or business. It also shows that you’re interested in learning about an industry as a whole versus just wanting to sniff around at someone’s job title or earnings. It’s also much easier to ask engaging questions or bond over a shared industry than to compare an exact job title, so it’s naturally a more engaging conversational topic.
24. Don’t Attempt to Brag
If there were ever one game you could never possibly win, it would be bragging to a wealthy or famous person. By all the laws of capitalism, there is simply no way you will have done or seen anything more impressive than what a millionaire CEO or rock star has done and seen in their lives, even if they’re younger than you. You may think you’ve had a great vacation or own a unique collector car, but we can guarantee a wealthy person or celebrity will have done and seen it all and have probably rented entire islands that put your nice vacation to shame.
If you want to try to create a sense of identity or bond with a wealthy person or celebrity, ask them engaging questions about themselves that allow them to share their passions and interests instead of just their money. It may turn out you both enjoy geology or some other niche interest that you can discuss on a far more level playing field than anything related to material consumption. You’ll never be able to out-brag or out-buy a rich person, but you can likely speak as equals on a shared topic or hobby of interest and have an actual thoughtful, meaningful discussion.
23. “Nice to Meet You”
There are few faster ways to shut down a conversation with a wealthy person or celebrity than stammering out a blasé “nice to meet you.” What can the other person say in return other than some variation of “you as well.” Moreover, let’s be honest, is it that exciting for a celebrity or wealthy person to meet us when they are already meeting probably hundreds of people a week as part of their job or promotional duties? Probably not. Telling someone, it’s nice to meet them simply doesn’t provide an avenue for continued conversation and is typically a way to end conversations and move on.
A much better opening alternative to “nice to meet you” is a simple “How do you do?” or even asking them how their day is going. It asks them about themselves rather than just saying how ‘nice it is to meet’ them. The answer requires a bit more thought and introspection on their part than the automated “you too” you’d get in response to a ‘nice to meet you’ opening. For the wealthy elite, a “how do you do?” is polite and shows excellent manners that aren’t always terribly common in conversations anymore. Always ask engaging questions if possible instead of making generic statements.
22. “You Look Different Than On TV”
Celebrities and newsworthy wealthy people are fully aware of how they look on tv and honestly have probably spent a fair bit of time agonizing over how their faces or bodies look on the big screen. It can be an incredibly self-conscious experience to appear on tv. Thus, comments that remind them of that fact and force them to think about how they look on television and in real life are honestly quite rude. Furthermore, they are likely to be met with a sarcastic response. Alternatively, merely ignoring you in favor of someone offering up interesting, engaging conversation that isn’t rude and vain.
If you feel you simply must comment on a celebrity or wealthy person’s appearance, make sure you comment on aesthetic choices only. Something like “that dress is beautiful, who are you wearing today?” is far more polite and engaging than “wow, you’re shorter than on tv” or some other comment that could honestly be construed as body shaming. Much like the general rules for complimenting strangers, only comment on or ask about aesthetic choices like hair cuts, jewelry, accessories, and clothing. In general, though, when meeting a new person, it simply isn’t polite to comment on appearance, and this holds true even for people whose jobs are their appearances like models and celebrities.
21. “Do You Know Who You Are?!”
If there is one thing celebrities and wealthy people are fully aware of, at all times, it is who they are. In particular, famous people are never allowed to forget who they are since they have to pay security to accompany them in public to prevent hoards of fans (and possibly naysayers and agitators) from coming up to them and invading their personal space. If you want to annoy a celebrity or wealthy person, asking them if they know who they are is a great way to ensure success and make sure you get escorted away as a pest.
It is always the best practice to simply have a normal conversation, no matter how famous or wealthy someone is. If you must gush, simply say that you enjoy their work or admire their achievements and then ask an interesting, polite question about themselves or ask them how they are doing and allow them to direct the conversation where they would like it to go. Celebrities and noteworthy wealthy people are excessively used to, and exhausted by, people who come up and gush and ask them if they know how famous they are. Treat people the way you would like to be treated, and that includes celebrities.
20. “How Much Money Do You Make?”
Asking how much money someone makes is incredibly rude, no matter who they are. It looks like you only care about this person’s money instead of them as an individual. For some reason, people assume that when you have much money, you would be willing to share because you’re proud. However, the reality is that having a lot of money makes you a target for people trying to use you for the wrong reasons. Also, like anyone, they might not even have an exact answer. Do you know how much you make down to the cent between your jobs, investments, and more? Probably not, so it’s rude and presumptuous to ask of anyone else.
If you meet someone who is a millionaire, avoid talking about money. Even after knowing someone for years, never directly ask them how much money they have. They might eventually volunteer certain information, like how much their company is worth, but this will only be revealed when they can trust you. Sometimes, you might know a millionaire for years without ever knowing exactly how much they make. You likely don’t ask your working-class friends how much they make because instinctively, it would be rude, so treat the wealthy the same. They are more than just the sum of their money.
19. Name-Dropping Celebrities
One of the most cliché things people do when meeting a millionaire for the first time is to name-drop the wealthiest person they know, especially if it’s a casual acquaintance at best. Alternatively, they might mention the fact that they met a celebrity. Even if they don’t know the star very well, they think that name-dropping will help get them to a higher social circle. The reality of the situation is that name-dropping is very obvious and is a huge turnoff. Even if you were friends with a celebrity, name-dropping still doesn’t work. That tells others that you’re riding their coattails.
Real rich people don’t get worked up about celebrities. They might not want to be famous because they want to maintain their privacy. Basically, if you are very successful and confident in your own abilities, you want your own name to shine instead of bragging about knowing someone who’s famous. A wealthy person may also assume that if you immediately name drop a celebrity, meeting them will ultimately be just another name drop that you will use for clout, which will make them not trust you and not want anything to do with you. Just be yourself and have a real conversation.
18. Complaining About Money
Rich people are financially comfortable, so they have no reason to complain about money. If you begin to complain about your own finances, they’ll immediately consider this a red flag. They might assume that the conversation will eventually lead to you asking them for money if they continue to talk to you. It can also make them feel uncomfortable knowing that their financial status is that much better than yours. It’s reasonably rude in most cultures to talk openly about money, especially money problems, in general, so don’t make money the topic of conversation with a wealthy person you’ve just met.
Some of you might not see the problem with this, but put yourself in their shoes. It’s the same uncomfortable feeling of being asked for money by a homeless person on the street. As a good person, you feel obligated to help them. However, you wonder if they genuinely need the money or if your donation is just going to enable the addiction that got them on the street. You might be thinking the homeless person should get a job to support themselves. Most of us wouldn’t complain openly about money to anyone but our closest friends and family, so don’t dump those worries on a newly met wealthy person.
17. “Where Are You From?”
Asking where someone is from is a normal part of getting to know a person. That makes sense if you’re meeting a new friend at a party or on a first date. However, wealthy people usually have more than one property in different cities or countries. So the question “where are you from?” sounds like you were asking where they grew up. If you are meeting them in a professional setting, this question might be a little too intimate to ask someone at first, especially if it’s at a networking event. A better question to ask is, “Where are you based?” or “Where do you live?”
Some people who are self-made millionaires might not have the best memories of home or childhood, either. Alternatively, they might not want to talk about the small town they came from because they now identify themselves as a New Yorker. Even if they had wealthy parents and a great upbringing, they still might want to be judged for their own accomplishments rather than their parents. So it’s best just to stay away from the topic when you first network with a millionaire. If you take the time to become a friend to this person, you will learn where they grew up.
16. Passive-Aggressive Jealousy
One of the worst things you can ever do when meeting a rich person is to act jealous of them. Even if you’re trying to fake being nice, it often comes off as passive-aggressive. One of the most common passive-aggressive comments I have heard from people is, “Must be nice,” in response to hearing a story about something upscale. That envy causes the atmosphere of the conversation to shift. It makes the rich feel guilty about “bragging” about their wealth when they could just be honest about their lives. Comments like those are a very certain and quick way to shut down a conversation immediately.
When you hear a wealthy person talk about their luxurious lifestyle, you might feel envy. However, instead of letting it come out negatively, remind yourself that this person probably worked hard. If you worked just as hard, you could have those same things, too. Try to be happy. When you can become genuinely happy for other people’s good fortune, wealthy people will want to be your friend. If you think wealth is unethical, that’s fine, but you should probably avoid being friends with wealthy people since your worldviews on money will be incompatible.
There are plenty of people out there who make the mistake of gossiping with someone they just met. While the conversation may be interesting, it automatically tells the other person that you are gossipy. Furthermore, if you talk about a mutual acquaintance, they are going to be very cautious about themselves. After all, if you’re willing to spill secrets to someone you just met, how could they trust you with their personal information? To the “bred and dead” tier of society who only want to appear in the newspaper when they’re born and deceased, they want to avoid being gossiped about at all costs to prevent tarnishing their sterling reputations.
Privacy is one of the most valuable things globally, and many millionaires pay good money to maintain their personal lives behind closed doors. Some millionaires believe that confidentiality and discretion are far more important than fame. These people are more likely to be turned off by your behavior. There is almost nothing positive that could ever come from gossip. You may think it makes you seem cool and in the know, but honestly, they probably have heard it already and will find you lowbrow and uncouth for repeating it. Keep your conversations positive and engaging rather than dragging anyone through the mud.
14. Pitching a Business Idea
Entrepreneurial-wannabes dream of meeting a millionaire businessperson because they think it could be their golden opportunity. Maybe they have seen too many Shark Tank episodes and think every rich person is willing to sit down and listen to a stranger’s ideas. In their fantasy scenario, this rich person might even offer to invest in your startup. The real world doesn’t work this way. Rich people are far too busy to listen to a stranger’s idea. Most millionaires are sick of hearing it, especially at a social function. Wealthy people realize there is so much more that goes into starting a business than good ideas.
Before you get investors, you need to put in the work to prove your business is profitable. Starting a business with someone is also like getting into a marriage. You don’t just jump into it with someone you met for the first time. Every wise investor does a tremendous amount of research before giving their money away. So this fantasy idea would never actually happen. Instead of pushing your views on someone you just met, see if you can work alongside them for a while first. If they notice that you are talented, hard-working, and motivated, they might be willing to invest in your ideas later.
13. Revealing Yourself as Competition
In the middle-class world, it’s a good thing for you to reveal you both work in the same industry. However, if you meet someone in the upper echelons of society that runs a business, indicating that you work in the same sector might turn you into competition, especially if you run a similar business. It’s essential to be open and honest about your line of work with a millionaire if it’s a business they don’t want to be associated with, a competitor they don’t want to anger or offend, or some other potential business conflict.
Even if this other person’s business is far more successful than yours, they are not likely to want to get to know you for several reasons. If you are much lower on the totem pole, you could be perceived as trying to ride on their coattails to build your own career. Alternatively, you could be perceived as a threat in terms of wanting to steal information or trade secrets to advance yourself. However, don’t be dishonest either. If you work in the same field as someone, be open about that upfront and let them decide if that is a deal-breaker or not.
12. Revealing Information You Knew About Them Beforehand
Millionaires are not always famous. However, if you are meeting a wealthy person, they might also be a celebrity. In this case, you might have heard about them through an article on the Internet, TV, or social media. So many people make the mistake of talking to a celebrity as if they are already friends. Imagine meeting a stranger for the first time, and they already know the name of your significant other, your dog, and where you live. It puts you both in an awkward position since they are at a disadvantage in not knowing a thing about the person who’s reciting facts about their personal life.
When ordinary people meet each other for the first time, it’s a blank slate. Celebrities still want to get to know you at an average pace. Someone’s public image isn’t always real, and the media may be painting them as someone different from reality. If you find yourself in the position of becoming friends with a celebrity, do yourself a favor and stop Googling their information. Try to get to know them like you would anyone else. Ask questions, listen, and be yourself. Don’t assume that you know them and their history based on what’s publicly available about them.
11. Saying “I Love You”
Nearly every celebrity on the planet has had one of their fans run up to them in public and declare, “I love you!” Imagine how you would feel if a random stranger ran up to you at a shop and yelled that they loved you. The words “I love you” are usually reserved for the closest people in your life, not strangers. In reality, you don’t love them. You love the idea of who you think they are, but you haven’t gotten to know the real person yet. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with someone, definitely don’t open it by declaring your love.
If you want to let a celebrity know that you are aware of them and are a fan, there’s a way to do it without letting go of your dignity. You can simply say, “I love your work” or “I’m a fan of your work” in a calm tone with a smile, and then move the conversation along to something else. Sometimes, they might want to hear more about how you are familiar with their work. Other times, people will feel embarrassed to talk too much about themselves and appreciate that you didn’t make that the center of the conversation.
10. Talking Too Much About Work
When getting to know a successful business owner, you might be tempted to ask how they run their company. It’s understandable why you might ask this since their company is a massive part of their life and identity. So you might assume that asking for details would be part of the process of getting to know them. However, many business owners want to separate their professional and personal lives. Do you only want to talk about work when you go out to a bar or restaurant? Of course not. Many millionaires are the same and would much rather talk about their favorite sports team or hobby than a day in the office.
There might also be insider secrets that they are afraid to share for fear of having their ideas stolen. Competition is fierce, and you never know who to trust. Much of their daily grind might feel boring to them, and they don’t feel like getting into the details when they are trying to get to know you. So don’t get offended if an entrepreneur wants to change the subject quickly. If you truly do become friends with this person, you will eventually hear more about their business. Also, the wealthy have more time and money for hobbies than the rest of us and may have a passion for talking about instead of work.
9. Interrupting Existing Conversation
One of the absolute worst things people do to well-known successful people is interrupting their existing conversations. For example, maybe you see your hero standing across the room talking to someone. You think, “This could be my only chance! I’ve got to go over there!” So you make your way over and either stand nearby or insert yourself into their existing conversation. Maybe you have seen this work in a movie before, but in reality, it’s a huge “no,” and you might even be escorted out of the building. No one likes interruptions, and no one deserves to be interrupted.
Even if you say “excuse me” to get their attention, it’s still incredibly rude. You have no idea what they were talking about before you came over. It could have been a vital conversation or a sensitive business discussion. By interrupting them, you are putting your desires above theirs and completely disregarding their privacy. Try to wait until they are alone or otherwise indicate that they’re open to starting a new conversation. Remember the golden rule and think of how you’d feel if someone barged in on you talking to a close friend to get your attention. Be kind and respectful.
8. Trying Too Hard to Impress Them
This advice goes for nearly every social situation, whether you speak to a millionaire or just an average joe. Trying too hard to impress someone gives off an air of desperation that’s incredibly unattractive. It also lets them know immediately that you are not on an equal playing field. Even if they decide to speak to you, it could be because they might think you’re easy to control, which can never be a good thing. Make sure you aren’t coming across as just another fan of the person because they encounter those people frequently and likely don’t ever create longer-term relationships with those people.
Sometimes, it can be not easy to calm yourself down if you meet someone you’ve admired for a while. Just remember that you have value, too, and they are still just another human being at the end of the day. Also, you usually don’t get in the sort of situations that allow you to meet celebrities and millionaires in the first place unless you have already earned it. Feel confident in who you are, and imagine that you are just as good of a colleague as they are. It might sound a bit like “fake it ’til you make it,” but it truly helps.
7. Talking Too Much About Yourself
Another wholly unattractive quality is talking too much about yourself. Earlier in this article, we talked about knowing a lot about a wealthy person before meeting them. You might feel compelled to tell them a lot about you because it only seems fair, right? However, they’re still a normal person. They want an equal exchange of you going back and forth, telling one another about yourself. Almost everyone enjoys a chance to talk about themselves, whether it’s bragging a little about a recent achievement or enthusiastically detailing a newfound hobby. Rich people like these opportunities as well, so make sure you create them!
Be mindful of how much you are talking about yourself, and do not forget to ask them questions. Remind yourself there is probably a lot you don’t know about this person. Don’t assume that just because you heard about their life through an article that you know everything about this person. Human beings contain multitudes. So always be willing to listen. Also, remember that you don’t know them even if they’re relatively famous, despite hearing a lot about them. Ask them engaging questions about themselves to allow them some time to shine in the conversation versus dominating it yourself.
6. Asking For a Selfie
If you meet a celebrity for the first time and immediately ask for a selfie, you have officially put yourself in the “fan” category. There’s no going back once you ask for this selfie, and you have completely ruined your chances of ever being taken seriously as a friend. By asking for a selfie, your intention is probably to post a picture on Facebook or Instagram to tell your friends, “Look who I just met!” It’s kind of like going to the zoo and posing for a picture next to the animals. Treat them like an average person you’d like to connect with, not a status symbol.
Think about what happens when you meet someone new in school or at a new job. Would you ask the person sitting next to you for a selfie on the day you met? Absolutely not. It would be weird. However, after sitting next to that person for a few weeks, you might find yourselves getting lunch or including them in your Snapchat story. Meeting a celebrity or a millionaire is the same way. If you have actual intentions of being taken seriously by them, don’t ask for a selfie or anything else that would designate you as a fan.
5. Asking For Advice
One of the biggest mistakes people make when meeting someone wealthy is to ask for advice on how they can become rich. There is a misconception that wealthy people know some kind of “secret.” The truth is that this kind of advice can’t be distilled in just a few minutes. Most millionaires worked incredibly hard for years, going through their own trials and tribulations before becoming wealthy. Even if they could give you a Cliff Notes version of their success, it would be vague advice at best. It’s also likely advice they can, and have, profited off of in some way or another, so asking them for that information for free can be seen as rude and asking for unpaid emotional labor.
Since it takes much longer than five minutes to learn about someone’s journey to success, some people might even ask to meet up for coffee so that they can “pick their brain.” Some people fail to realize that picking someone’s brain is a professional consultation and never free. The richer you get, the less time you have. Their advice is precious, and some people charge well over $100 per hour just to consult. So expecting a stranger to give you that time for free is incredibly bold and honestly somewhat rude and shows you lack knowledge and experience.
4. Bringing Up Politics
You may have already heard the advice that you should never talk about politics or religion over dinner. That is true with anyone. Nevertheless, this is critical advice to follow when you meet someone you are trying to impress. Some people make the mistake of believing that to impress a successful person. You need to talk about “high level” topics like politics. However, you don’t know which way this person leans politically. So you might accidentally offend them. If you feel the need to talk politics, try something like international news instead of partisan politics from within your country, which people tend to have extreme reactions towards.
It’s great to be up-to-date on politics just if it becomes a natural part of the conversation. Nevertheless, you should never immediately go for politics as a topic. If you met someone for the first time and ended up in an intense political debate, would you want to become their friend? It’s far more likely to turn someone off than have them think you are worthy of getting to know. Old-fashioned conversational advice always said never to bring up politics or religion in polite conversation, which still holds true, especially in the workplace and professional conversations where neither topic is typically appropriate nor likely to result in anything but bad feelings.
3. Talking Badly About Yourself
Centuries ago, court jesters made themselves look stupid to make kings feel good about themselves. You shouldn’t be putting yourself down with the idea it might inflate a millionaire’s ego. Some people like to use self-deprecating humor. That works in certain situations to diffuse tension whenever someone may assume that you are arrogant. It can also show that you have a sense of humility and might make you a more likable person. Self-deprecating humor can also be hilarious when delivered well, but if used too often or in too sharp of a way, it can make you seem kind of sad.
However, if you do mock yourself too often, it can make it seem that you have abysmal self-esteem. Remember that self-deprecating humor works the best if you blend it with a sense of confidence. If some of you out there are scratching your heads wondering how you can be both self-deprecating and confident at the same time, maybe you shouldn’t try this method. When this type of humor is done incorrectly, it could come across as you being down on yourself in a bad way. Self-deprecating comedy has to be delivered with a balance to avoid feeling whiney or giving people a secondhand sense of embarrassment for you.
2. Speaking In Clichés
Plenty of people say clichés daily if they don’t know what else to say. While this might be fine in everyday life, it’s not exactly going to make you stand out. If you speak in clichés, you aren’t being original. When a conversation is not at all memorable, people are likely to forget you later. If you want to be memorable, especially positively, you need to build interpersonal communication skills. That will allow you to have engaging, authentic conversations that are more than just boilerplate small talk and clichés. Engaging in conversation is always memorable.
Some people are more naturally quick-witted and clever than others. In reality, you can train yourself to be funny and smart. You might want to listen to comedians discussing their craft on podcasts. Public speaking classes are also fantastic at helping boost your confidence when talking to others. When you combine all of this effort, you will find you have more captivating conversations with all kinds of people. Remember always to ask engaging questions in a chat as well, as this allows people to speak about themselves and gives you a much better idea of what they’re like a person through their answers.
Some people say that if you want to succeed, you need to “fake it ’til you make it.” In certain aspects, like pretending to be more confident or wearing nice clothes, this might be true. By acting and dressing like someone rich, it might help you get on track to becoming wealthy by increasing your confidence and attracting a great group of friends. Nevertheless, you should never lie to anyone about your current level of success. Imagine how you’d feel if a new friend lied to you about something as large as what their job is or something, you’d likely feel hurt and betrayed. Honesty is the best policy in all aspects of life, including representing your own wealth and status.
Lies will never get you anywhere. Some people can see right through your false information, especially if you don’t work in the industry you are talking about. Furthermore, there is also no good outcome that would ever come of it. Remember that you might connect with someone, and being dishonest is only going to lead to a scenario where they can’t trust you anymore. So it’s best to be upfront even if you are still learning about your industry of choice. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and the reputation you develop will follow you throughout your career, so honestly is always the best policy.