There's a popular people-skills book out there known as How to Win Friends and Influence People. It's meant to be a primer on social relationships, offering key tips for increasing your popularity with those you'd like to connect with. For me, it's business speak for a much simpler concept; feed people well.
I have yet to meet anyone who couldn't secure friends via the offering of good food. It's human nature to offer people edible comfort in good times and bad, and it's a great way to introduce yourself to a new neighbourhood, job, PTA group etc.
Back in university, I decided to host a potluck Thanksgiving dinner for a group of friends who didn't have plans to return to their hometowns for familial celebrations. Over a decade later, that meal still comes up during group conversations, not because it was the most stellar or delicious (in fact, I'm sure it was the opposite), but because it brought us all together when we most needed it.
My kids are also learning this social skill despite their youth. When my 11-year-old is feeling a little insecure about the current state of his best friend status, he quickly offers up a playdate complete with road hockey and cookies, which he is certain will set him back on track. He's usually right. He may not have ever lost his friend, but he knows that nothing bad can come from feeding him well.
My little guy, who sadly isn't all that little any more, is always the first to volunteer to cook for someone. Whether it's baking something for his class party, delivering dinner to his grandparents or making pizza sandwiches twice a week for the family dinner, his personal credo is simple: feeding people makes them feel good. I'm so glad he's learned this message at such a young age.
Now, when it comes to influencing people, the message is just as simple. Offer good food and you'll be surprised just how persuasive you can be. As a mother, I spend my days doing this with the people around me. I sway, or at least try to, my nine-year-old's opinion on broccoli and carrots. I hope to pull rank over my husband, Rob, and keep our bacon consumption to a minimum, and I certainly keep Ben, the 11-year-old, away from sports drinks and power bars by influencing him with my own homemade goods.
Again, it's a very easy concept: If you cook, they will eat. And likely enjoy it, too.
I know self-help reading is great, especially if it can steer us in the direction of improving upon our people skills. But instead of opening the pages of book, try breaking out a platter of food and wait to see what happens. I think you'll find you've not only won friends, but influenced quite a few people too.