snakecharmerReal charm that comes from the heart can improve your life considerably, as well as the lives of the people you come into contact with on a daily basis. It can even help with strangers you only interact once or twice with during your brief time on Earth.

Charm, and humor, recently helped me with a surly cashier at my local supermarket. She never smiled, and tended to treat me and the other customers in a gruff I’d-rather-kick-you-in-the-face-than-talk-to-you-kind of way. Whenever I landed on her checkout line, I’d always smile, make a friendly joke, and then thank her in a big but not ridiculously overblown manner. My efforts didn’t pay off at first. Her dour armor remained intact, but over time, I noticed the hints of a smile. I kept at it, until one afternoon she displayed her teeth, grinned (kind of) and wished me a good day.

Even if you have to work at it at first, the benefits of charm can be very real, and with a little practice, everyday kindness can become second nature to you, which in turn will make the world a little brighter for everyone. Here are six simple ways to be charming that cost you nothing:

Lend a Helping Hand

Lend a helping hand. It’s simple and easy to do. Help an old lady with her groceries. Stop and ask a group of confused looking tourists if they need directions. Clear the table without having to be asked. When a friend is in need, offer to help in way designed to make him or her accept. None of this, “Give me a call if you need anything. I’ll be getting drunk at the bar.” Mean it, and then do it. People will love you for your helpful kindness, and you’ll feel better about yourself as a human being.

Smile and Be Positive

An honest smile truly is infectious. If you’re not the smiling type, practice in front of a mirror until you sort out your smile, and refine the display of lips, gums and those pearly whites. And with your new, wonderful smile (kudos to you if your grin already rocks), add a kind word. You’ll find a surplus of people in this world who love to criticize and tear others down. Be unique, and even when offering advice meant to correct a terrible ill, add a bit of humor or put a positive spin on your critique.

Make Eye Contact

Nothing could be easier than making eye contact. Look people in the eye when you speak to them. Acknowledge that they’re important to you. When your eyes are constantly wandering about, or even worse, you’re focused on something or someone else, you can come off as a bit of an ass. Even if you only intend to engage another person in conversation for several minutes, make sure your speaking partner has your full attention. That way, it will be a few minutes well spent.

Stop Paying Attention to Your Phone

Fussing around with your phone, sending texts, waiting for a call, playing a game or just surfing the Internet takes up a lot of time in the modern world. When you’ve made a commitment to spend some minutes, or even hours with a flesh and blood person, put your phone away — unless your wife is expecting, or you’re waiting for some life and death hospital results. Everyone fidgets with his or her phone all day long. Be different. Be the one who sets technology aside — if only for a brief while — and pays attention to the wonderful human beings at hand.

Set People at Ease

Most of us have had to deal with uncomfortable situations in our lives. Showing up to an event or party and realizing that the one person you knew who was supposed to be there bailed can be a real drag. When someone notices you standing in a corner, sipping a drink all by your lonesome, and then comes over and talks to you, that noble socialite suddenly becomes your best friend. You too can be the charming hero who swoops in and sets others at ease. Helping folks survive awkward situations can be extremely rewarding — and the favor won’t likely be forgotten soon.

Show Interest in Others

Engage, be empathetic and ask meaningful questions — but also understand when it’s time to end a conversation. Everyone knows the difference between a motor-mouthed schmoozer robbing you of your precious time by asking an endless onslaught of disingenuous questions, and someone who actually cares. Even if establishing a business connection or gaining some kind of advantage is at the back of you mind (we’re all human), try and interact from your heart.

Sincerity and real interest in people are some of the most charming qualities a man or woman can have. You might even be pleasantly surprised by what you learn about others when you scratch just below the surface — and if that’s not the case, at least you’ll know what to watch out for in future encounters.