Impression management

Why “Manager of First Impressions” Is Not a Vanity Title

There are two principles of human memory called the Law of Primacy and the Law of Recency. They are similar in concept. They support the notion that when someone encounters a series of related items such as a bunch of different messages written inside one email, or a group of people in a receiving line, it is either the first or the final item or person in the sequence that is remembered much more vividly than the rest. This one item or person will color an entire relationship going forward.

That’s why I pay particular attention to the way in which companies employ the individual who works at the front desk, in the lobby or reception area. Perhaps I should replace the word “employ” with “deploy,” for I am not referring to employment as in providing a job, but instead how that person and that position are used to further the positive image of a company.

Reception work is not always seen as the most rewarding position in an office. It can sometimes be tedious, and sometimes overly busy, and it is seldom well-paid. I have often heard people make the condescending statement, sometimes unintentionally, when giving a speech or presentation about how a particular topic, product, or trend will affect everyone from the CEO down to the receptionist, as if this latter position is the lowest on the corporate ladder.

What people tend to overlook with such a statement is that the person at reception holds an unrivaled power of first and last impressions, a force that can impact the entire company and everyone in it. I once visited the head office of a large pharmaceuticals company whose gleaming and airy atrium served as the meeting point for hundreds of vendors and buyers every week. Each of these people encountered a polite and efficient person at reception. This individual carried the title of “Manager of First Impressions.”

To me this is not an overly cute vanity title. It is instead the manifestation of the company’s mission statement. First impressions will influence a visitor’s actions and attitudes forever (that’s the Law of Primacy). It shapes an individual’s behavior upon entering the place of business and will influence how they interact.

Back at the pharmaceuticals company’s main lobby, as visitors return their badges and sign out of the building, this Manager of First Impressions takes care to not only actively and sincerely wish the visitors a good day, but also thanks them for visiting. Such simple but well-placed actions demonstrate a degree of care that is becoming less and less common. These actions, demonstrating an above average level of care to each of the hundreds of weekly visitors extends into the brand, generating an image of above average-quality that every company seeks to attain. The reception person operates as a primary catalyst in the success of any business.

On an individual level, the first and last seconds of your interactions with anyone will color their actions and attitudes from that point on. Everyone knows the importance of making good eye contact when shaking hands for the first time, but what about using their name in your parting remarks? Are you able to remember the name(s) of the person or people you have just met? This is a vital skill for managing reputations and relationships. Including a person’s name to your “goodbye” makes things warmer and more personal. It shows indisputably that you care.

In this age where so much communication is done by text, it is still human emotion that guides actions and ultimately influences decisions. Investing some time to implement and practice proactive impression management is essential, for individuals and businesses alike.

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CoolTimeLife Podcast Episode 2 (Attention) Show Notes

Episode 2 (January 30, 2017): Paying attention to the concept of attention, specifically: understanding and capitalizing on your own attention span as well as that of other people; techniques for getting people’s full attention in emails and meetings; standing to attention: why standing and moving around is good for your health;  memory tricks: how to remember people’s names before your short attention span lets go of them.

To listen to the podcast, click here
To subscribe to the podcast series, click here

IF PEOPLE DO NOT SEEM TO BE PAYING ATTENTION TO YOU DURING A MEETING:

It might seem rude. But maybe they are…

  • Taking notes. Digital notes are much easier to tag and search for.
  • Fact-checking or retrieving useful info or documents to keep the meeting on track
  • Putting out an external fire via email or chat. It’s eiter this or skip the meeting
  • Doodling / playing Angry Birds. Most people need to move around. We’re not allowed to fidget, so often, doodling is the next best thing

If an organization is to stay “old-school” and require that everyone turn off their devices and face-forward, then this needs to be communicated as “meeting policy,” and not be merely expected or assumed. Employees today make their own assumptions.

On the flip side, if a company wants to play it cool by allowing people to bring and use whatever devices they desire into a meeting, a similar policy must be developed and broadcast, not only to ensure these technically-inclined people actually do agree to pay attention and to produce the required results by the end of the day, but also to inform those who may not share this technological enthusiasm, that bringing devices into a meeting is not rude anti-social behavior, but is in fact the new norm.

In both cases it is essential that people on both sides of the ideological fence are made aware of whatever rules the company decides upon. Rude behavior after all can best be defined by what it is not: it is behavior that does not align with social convention. But unless that convention is explicitly defined and universally recognized, there is nothing for people to refer to.

ALLOWING FACEBOOK/SOCIAL MEDIA IN THE WORKPLACE

The 8-hour day does not work. This is why we have the water cooler and the cigarette break or coffee shop run. The reality is, no-one can do 8 hours of work in 8 hours.

What is your attention span like? Mine is about 12 minutes before I need a Twitter break. People have a professional obligation to act responsibly, of course, and to return to their tasks after the break. The point is to allow people to work according to the way their mind and body work best.

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ATTENTION-GETTING EMAILS

  • Subject lines – summarize your entire message in 12 words or less
  • Include one message per email.
  • The first 1st paragraph should say all that needs to be said
  • Keep your email short enough so that the opening and close are visible on the same screen. This encourages people to read.
  • Use a P.S. (postscript) as a place to repeat your message or call to action. The human eye is attractoed to graphic elements like post scripts

Resources I mention in this segment are collaborative workspaces, which I hope will replace most email in future years. These include:

STANDING TO ATTENTION
Examples of standing desk furniture:

Storkstand – this is what a Storkstand looks like.

storkstand

Stirworks offers a full sizes standing desk.

stirworks

MEMORIZING NAMES AND FACTS
To remember people’s names, use the act of shaking hands as a cue to start up the silent technique of word association. Find something about the person – their hairstyle, clothing or resemblance to a celebrity or friend – and connect that phonetically or visually to their name/

So there you have it, our podcast on attention. I hope it caught yours. Let me know by leaving a message on our comments form at the bottom of the MY PODCAST page.

Donald Trump Speaks Like an Australian Frilled Lizard

Unquestionably, this has been the year of Donald Trump. Love him, hate him, fear him, it is impossible to ignore him. As a professional speaker, I find him fascinating. I watch his mannerisms, his hand gestures, his eyes, the hair of course. I listen to his words. All of them point to a style of defiance and bravado. He, the proponent of the great Mexican wall, has built one around himself – a shield against any form of rebuttal or inquiry. A shield that also magnifies the intensity of his delivery, even when true substance is lacking.

Australian Frilled Lizard - Image from Google Images. Click for link.

Australian Frilled Lizard – Image from Google Images. Click for link.

You see many examples of this in the animal kingdom. Frilled lizards, like the one pictured, extend the ruff around their neck to appear larger and scarier than they actually are. Puffer fish do this, and even cats do it when they arch their backs. This act of physical bluster seeks to fend off predators and competitors without having to resort to actual battle.

Please do not take this blog as a hit piece against Mr. Trump. I am trying to understand his appeal through his technique, which has obviously proven to be a success. He is one of many notable political speakers, and I wish to compare him to those from either side of the political landscape.

Those Hands

When Mr. Trump speaks, his hands speak too. Everyone who speaks publicly learns sooner or later the power of hand gestures while talking. You need them. Most people in the know use their hands carefully, as punctuation – subtle embellishments of the message, a demonstration of openness, sincerity, or conviction. Nervous or inexperienced speakers tend to use their hands too much, a problem that becomes even worse on camera. Over-gesticulation becomes a distraction to the audience, but correct hand usage guides the listener through the story: body language becomes a chaperone to the words.

My feeling is, Mr. Trump’s hand gestures convey an instruction to his audience: “Don’t interrupt me. My idea is all that counts.” He speaks with one or both hands raised to shoulder height, palms outward, often with his index fingers raised. To me, the palms outward represent the universal “stop” signal. They put up the wall that says, “you must not interrupt me.” The raised index finger highlights the topic being spoken about. They say, “This idea is the best. This is the one thing you should be paying attention to.”

Mr. Trump seldom lets those hands rest. They are in action throughout his entire verbal delivery, ready to fend off any challenges from hecklers, or worse, journalists.

Those Words

Mr. Trump’s speaking style is another wall, another defensive inflation of his physical self. He allows no spaces, no pauses, no chance for anyone else to step in. There are three essential components of his speech, in my opinion.  These are refrains, flares, and hooks.

Refrains: Mr. Trump never says something once. He says it many times. Every phrase is stated three or more times, especially while he is framing his thoughts, or as a statement comes to a close. Here he is defending his use of the “Star of David” graphic on a recent anti-HRC web page. I have highlighted the refrains.

Trump Star 1

Flares are phrases that shoot out the side of a conversation as unnecessary fillers, distractions. They shift the mind’s focus away from the key message, reducing the chance for people to truly focus and then question its veracity. This is very much like the technique of distraction that magicians use to keep audiences from scrutinizing a trick too closely. Here’s the same piece with the flares highlighted:

Trump Star 2

This style of distraction with flares and repetition of the main elements is very efficient, and I do not believe it to be anything but intentional. Not only do these two techniques act as a wall, but they also help drive a message home. Anyone who sells for a living knows this: if you say something over and over again, regardless of how true or false it is, most people will start to believe it.

Hooks: Then there are the hooks. The most brilliant of all. Generally two words long. Shocking and memorable. Crooked Hillary. Little Marco. Lyin’ Ted. Failing New York Times. These are powerful because they are easy to remember. Compare this to President Obama’s signature phrase, “Let me be clear,” which, to a vast majority of listeners, sounds like “I want your attention for a protracted period because I’m about to say something that’s good for you.” Few people have the patience for that.

Other Speakers

Mr. Trump’s wall of words reflects his brash, in-your-face style, presumably a job requirement in the cutthroat world of property development. How does it compare to other well-known political speakers?

  • Ronald Reagan was known as the “Great Communicator.” He employed a folksy, smiling style, even at his most serious. As a professional actor, he knew the value of cadence, the power of a well-timed pause, as well as the memorable hook. Remember, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” A positively world-changing sentence.
  • Bill Clinton has always been a master storyteller. He, too, conveys a down-home charm that beautifully reflects his Arkansas roots. His speech supporting Hillary at the 2016 Democratic convention sounded like he was speaking to a customer over the counter at a rural general store.
  • The Obamas are both skilled at speaking. President Obama delivers his words like smooth jazz – calm, sophisticated, authoritative, with plenty of pauses and space for the audience to revel in a piece of art. The first lady exudes passion, optimism, and commitment to her ideals. Her eyes reveal a willingness to share, a positive energy.
  • Ted Cruz uses the soaring intonations of the pulpit, reflecting his father’s preaching style, evoking emotion and credibility by verging on song and powerful repetition. Credit for this style is due of course to the Gospel preachers of the South, mostly African-American, and most expertly employed by Martin Luther King, Junior.

Every public figure has to choose a style of voice. Some, unfortunately, do not. I do not find anything memorable about Hillary Clinton, and that may be her Achilles heel. Nor is Marco Rubio terribly impressive. And Jeb Bush, as nice a guy as he may be, could never muster the verbal energy to justify that exclamation point.

The start of a whole new approach to political messaging. Ford and Trum. Photo from NY Daily News.

The start of a whole new approach to political messaging. Ford and Trump. Photo from NY Daily News.

This is not an age where cerebral chat is valued. It is an age of sound bites and public fascination with the next new thing, the more shocking, the better. In Canada, Rob Ford was a cultural icon. Had he survived his battle with cancer, he would still be on the world stage, not because of the depth of his political intellect, but despite it. As one journalist one said to me, “Ford only has to blow his nose, and it will be on the front pages.

Mr. Trump is a speaker for our times. He goes on the offensive, blocking scrutiny and bulldozing over issues that would have sunk other politicians long ago. His unapologetic ignoring of those unreleased tax returns is a prime example. Anger is the current tone of the nation. You see it in the relentless trolling and shaming of people online. You see it in the normalization of horrific attacks on innocent people, whether initiated by terrorists, citizens or the police.

Collectively we have lost the capacity to question ourselves, and have consciously dispensed with any obligation to take blame. It is easier and quicker to apply that blame elsewhere. Thus, the frilled lizard that is Mr. Trump. Attack with watever you have, even if you do not have much. It will scare your opponents away, which, as we are all observing can be an extremely effective survival tactic. Extremely effective.  It’s so effective I can’t – I have people – so many people who say it’s the greatest… listen – it works, OK?

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The Future of Employee Engagement

This blog post, written for HP’s Business Value Exchange , entitled The Future of Employee Engagement is available for review at CloudTweaks.com. This post looks at collaborative environments, face-to-face communication, and how these activities influence engagement and productivity.  Click here to read.

CloudTweaks

Learning from Centuries of Stress, Power and Control

This post originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of Time Management for iPad Magazine.

book-the-48-laws-of-power1In his excellent book, The 48 Laws of Power, author Robert Greene presents an awe-inspiring collection of stories, taken from all corners of the globe and from all centuries – from history, scripture and folklore, that focus on power relationships between people. As he illustrates, power exists everywhere that two people interact. It fills the space between them, in terms of their respective abilities and influence on a situation. Consequently the awareness of one’s power in any given situation, either having power or lacking it, and the interaction that such an awareness has when it rubs up against the desire to effect change that is beneficial to oneself, becomes a source of stress.

Stress, after all, in both the physical and emotional worlds, is basically the tension exerted on an object by a force. Most people think of stress in the negative sense, since it occurs when “what is happening” does not equal “what should be happening,” in other words, a desire is exerted upon a situation but the results are not satisfactory. This negative stress is more properly called distress. Positive stress exists as well, of course. Its proper name is eustress. Positive eustress is sometimes just accepted as happiness, contentment or excitement. Great examples of this might be the exhilaration of downhill skiing, or watching a thrilling movie. Laughter, too, is a great, and very healthy positive stress.

But most people are aware only of negative stress, although they might not be aware of just how much damage it does to the human body and mind. Numerous clinical studies have suggested that stress is at the root of most major illnesses, due the impact on the immune and chemical systems of the body that instinctive defensiveness causes. Stress releases hormones that put people on guard, or make them fearful or resentful. Sleep is affected. Clear thought is affected too, as age-old reflexes revert to the fight-or-flight state that rejects intellectual thought, halts digestion and increases blood pressure, all in the name of facilitating a hasty escape.

In short, stress kills. It kills creativity, it kills opportunity, and eventually it kills people.

This is why Robert Greene’s book is so effective as a stress-management manual. Most self-help books provide recipes and regimens to follow: prescriptions for good health. But not all adults are good at following orders or techniques for more than a day or so. If they do not fit into an individual’s personality type, many good ideas stay forever locked on the outside of a person’s being.

But The 48 Laws of Power tells stories, and most people are very good at listening to stories. We learned it as children, and it remains a welcome medium for learning, as all major religions will attest. The stories in Greene’s book reveal the magic that happens when people allow stress to pass them by, replacing it with calm and clear thinking. The book does this not by telling the reader what to do, but instead telling the reader what others did.

For example, the story of a Chinese military general who was suspected of disloyalty to his emperor. He was given the ultimatum of creating ten thousand arrows by sunrise or being executed. Instead of hurriedly carving one arrow at a time, he sent a contingent of his soldiers downstream on a raft covered in hay and tethered by a long rope. The raft floated close to an enemy encampment in the dead of night, at which point the soldiers on the raft made a great deal of noise, prompting the camp’s guards to fire arrows towards the source of the disturbance. These arrows embedded themselves harmlessly in the raft’s hay bales. After some time, the raft was pulled back upstream and the arrows, ten thousand of them, were extracted, and presented to the emperor.

These types of stories demonstrate the significant gains that can be made by taking time to step back and think things through before either acting or merely reacting. Grace under pressure, leadership, confidence, charisma, clear decision-making – all of these admirable traits come from not allowing the heat and stress of the moment to overcome one’s higher thinking powers.

This is why the 80/20 rule is so important in managing time, tasks, and most importantly, stress. This rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, has many uses, an illustration of something small impacting something much larger. In the context of time management, this refers to taking the time to plan; to anticipate the future and its possible permutations, and to influence them in your favour.

The antidote to the sense of negative stress is the sense of control. Knowing and feeling that you are in control of a situation changes you physically and chemically. Stress hormones such as cortisol are called off. Blood and oxygen are redirected to the thinking areas of the brain. Blood vessels dilate and circulation improves. Vocal tone deepens (for men and women alike), and most importantly, thoughts, ideas and concerns can be prioritized.

It is well-known that panic is contagious, but so is calm. A person who takes the time to de-stress a situation does everyone a favour. People will flock to, and follow, the calm, confident leader who knows the way. They will do the tasks required, with confidence and faith.

This principle need not apply only to large-scale emergencies; a text message will do. Many tasks and relationships are damaged because people feel compelled to answer their text messages, emails or phone-calls the moment they arrive. This is stress dominating the moment. There is a fear that by not answering, the sender/caller will be offended. This “answering stress” is the medium of the immediate. It was designed originally to help keep humans alive in environments where large creatures dwelled, but now asserts itself in the false urgency of a caller’s expectations.

By contrast, the person who applies a small amount of their time to influence the future, by informing callers and clients as to when, where and how they will return calls, such as “always within two hours,” manages the expectations of the callers and as such controls the stress levels of all involved, including themselves.

Negative stress kills. But control, derived from planning according to the 80/20 rule, turns every situation into something that can be anticipated, handled, and transformed into a win.

My proposal to use the word “ford” as a leadership verb

For much of the past thousand years the term ford has been used either as a noun, referring to a shallow place in a river that is easy to wade through, thus not needing to build a bridge, or it has been used as a verb, describing the act of crossing a river at this same shallow place. In either case, one could project that it represents the conquest of a significant challenge by minimizing both work and planning, while leaving no structure in place to handle future needs.

This term comes so aptly to mind while observing the daily escapades of the current mayor of Toronto, who happens to have that word as his surname.

This blog is not intended to be an anti-Ford rant. It is intended instead to observe the curious action of avoiding the work of being accountable while holding a position of leadership; an act that a great many public figures, especially those on the political stage, display. In metaphorical terms, wading across a stream of challenge instead of building a bridge to address the problem.

For example, one of the most curious actions displayed by Mayor Ford is his constant trifecta of ignoring, avoiding and deflecting. Journalists who ask questions that he deems unwelcome are simply ignored. They are seldom greeted with a “no comment,” nor are they handed off to a press secretary or other spokesperson. They are simply ignored as if they had never been asked. When a press scrum becomes too unwieldy, the back-door is used for quick egress; and when a question is asked directly, as was the case on the now infamous Jimmy Kimmel appearance, the response takes the form of a deflection, as in:

Question: “Is there any validity to these accusations of domestic abuse, drunk driving, racism, homophobia and inability to tell the truth?”

Answer: “Is that all I got? I guess they don’t talk about all the money I’ve saved.”

Mr. Ford is by no means alone in his attempts to obfuscate through distraction and avoidance. One need only think back to President Clinton’s “Lewinsky moment” in which the term “sexual relations” was hastily redefined for the world, or the blatantly incorrect statements that were made by presidential candidate Romney and others during the 2012 debates – fact-checked and responded to in seconds, not days by the viewing audience – a concept that still seems to mystify politicians of every stripe.

There seems to thrive in the heart of so many these public figures a hope or belief that one can exist moment by moment – hopping across a stream one rock at a time – relying on the short memory of the public to draw away lasting liabilities of what might have been said or inferred.

One may argue that this is sound political strategy, after all the public has been known to actually have a short memory. But this does not play out so well in a wired world, where everyone can communicate with each other and PR handlers are no longer in control of a politician’s total image and legacy. Memory is now supplanted by connection, and words and images now have a tendency to echo.

Toronto Mayor Ford in LA. Image credit: Mayors' own Twitter page.

Toronto Mayor Ford in LA. Image credit: Mayors’ own Twitter page.

Take this image, for example. This photo shows the mayor of Toronto’s biggest city (and North America’s fourth or fifth largest, depending who you ask) standing meekly at the back of a room in the Los Angeles City Hall, where a council meeting was taking place. The Mayor, who had decided to drop in unannounced to City Hall was apparently unaware that his counterpart, Mayor Garcetti, was out of town on a trade mission of his own; Mayor Ford had apparently chosen not to set up appointments with Mr. Garcetti or with any of the film industry power-players, who would likely have given him a few minutes, given his status as leader of “Hollywood North.”

The photo is in many ways more damning that any of those from Mr. Kimmel’s program, because a certain degree of deer-in-the-headlights is to be expected when seated as a guest on any nationwide talk show.  But the City Hall photo shows something far worse than that. It shows a leader without status.

Leaders, both political and corporate, need status more than fame or notoriety. Status establishes credibility. It strengthens relationships, and delivers comfort and confidence to a population, to an employee base and to a customer base.  Without the credibility that comes from being able to answer a question with calm assurance, leadership vanishes, and the foundations start to crumble.

An answer does not have to be the desired one to have this effect; it simply has to be strong. In 1970, during the October Crisis, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau answered the question on how far he would go to suspend civil liberties by saying, “Just watch me.” Whether you agreed or not with Mr. Trudeau either then or now, the point remains that he maintained a position of leadership and confidence. He kept his status.

As I observe the Ford brothers’ daily act of ducking questions and responding with vitriol against the messenger or against a growing collection of perceived political foes, I see two people grasping the air as their feet slip on the rocks they chance to step upon. A person can feel sorry when observing such an act, but at the same time can wonder why they didn’t do more to build a more solid structure.

Any politician or public figure who prides him/herself on being a people-person, must take stock that to be a people-person requires more than just a love of the role. As the expression goes, if you wish to be spontaneous in life, plan to be spontaneous. To appear great, you have to figure out what greatness means. To show up without a plan means banking on the energy of the moment and condemning oneself to a legacy of doubt and mistrust in the hearts of the very people you seek to embrace.

A great many lessons can be learned from this new act of fording, in fact the Ford brothers’ greatest legacy might become the case study material they can provide through their actions, words and messages, on how not to lead. Anyone interested in taking over the helm of a department, a company or a political territory would do well to observe the overall results of fording and choose for themselves how much or how little they wish to use these techniques to win the hearts and minds of the people who exist there.

To extend the metaphor one last time, fording a stream only succeeds in getting your feet wet, and very few people will be truly willing to follow.

Retro-Future: The CDW Bus

In addition to my own posts, I also write professionally for CloudTweaks, an authority on cloud computing. I am currently covering VMWorld, a gigantic hight-tech conference being held in San Francisco that focuses on virtualization and cloud technology. My most recent post covers the innovative-yet-retro technique being used by solutions company CDW to promote their services. by far the coolest looking thing I have seen on the exhibit floor. Here is an excerpt:

CDW's FutureLiner

CDW’s FutureLiner

“…Whereas all of the other vendors at the convention use sophisticated graphics and animations to illustrate their virtual product, CDW decided to put it all inside a vintage GM FutureLiner (The concept of a Futureliner), and take it out on the road. As their PR specialist Dan Vargas explains, the bus was first produced in the late 1940′s, and early 1950′s to address the postwar appetite for the new and futuristic. What better way is there, he says, to demonstrate the new and futuristic vision of cloud and virtualization than to package it inside a really retro-cool looking vehicle.”

“…Although the bus is somewhat dwarfed by the enormous space of the Moscone Center, Vargas tells CloudTweaks that they drive the vehicle to all kinds of events including tailgate parties. Inside, carefully constructed display cases show off racks of servers and machines from all of the major players, highlighted in sleek red lighting.”

To read more, please click here.

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Get a real professional smile – from a real professional

HIs mouth may be smiling, but his eyes aren't.

His mouth may be smiling, but his eyes aren’t.

If your job requires you to have a head-and-shoulders mugshot, then do yourself a favor and find a really good photographer. If you are a speaker, an expert, a realtor, author, CEO, entrepreneur, or even just a regular person who works only with a few clients or colleagues, a powerful picture goes a long way towards connecting with the heart and soul of the people you wish to influence.

But so often, the head-and-shoulders shots that people post of themselves are false. They don’t work. There’s a smile there, but the smile is forced. It’s there because the photographer said, “Smile.” But the eyes in most of these pictures tell a different story. They eyes say, “I hope this photo comes out ok,” or “I hope this won’t make me look fat,” or “I hope this gets me some business.” The eyes are the window to the soul and as such they broadcast what is being felt at the time of the photo. It does not match up with the smile. For there is no smile behind those eyes.

It’s all about facial shapes. A forced smile requires the use of only the facial muscles we think are required to move the corners of the mouth up. This is just a small fraction of the muscles used during a genuine smile. Similarly, the eyes, consciously broadcast your inner thoughts and worries during the session, and so they do not play into the smile maneuver, but instead, the muscles around the eyes stay either “business as usual,” or form a creased dichotomy of messages. Either way, the face stays split in half – the top half giving away worries, the bottom half merely mimicking the action of a smile.

We’re all in business to sell. Whether self-employed, salaries or in transition, whether we deal with customers or colleagues, we are human. And humans buy with their heart, and rationalize later. If you want people to “buy” you, then you must be genuine. The only way to appear as though you are genuinely smiling is to be genuinely smiling.

Find a photographer who can make you laugh. Find someone who you get along with, with whom you have great chemistry and who can put you at ease. This person will be worth his/her fee because the resulting photograph will draw the smile from the inside out. Full facial cooperation reflecting full internal joy. This radiates from the page and screen and will help distinguish you warmly and effectively from your competition.

I just shook your hand and have already forgotten your name

Pleased to meet you. Now... who do you look like?

Pleased to meet you. Now… who do you look like?

There is a principle about human memory called the Law of Recency, which basically states that when someone encounters a series of similar “items” such as a group of people in a receiving line, it is the last item or person in the sequence that is remembered much more vividly than the rest. In other words, the end point of a sequence of events will color a person’s perception of the entire sequence. This is why it is so important to remember people’s names and insert them at the end of a conversation.

Most times, when we are introduced to a new person in a social situation, the new person’s name is forgotten 30 seconds after it is heard, because the rote reaction of social meeting behavior (a right-handed handshake of 2.5 seconds, brief eye contact, nice smile) was conditioned into us long ago and has become automatic.

An automatic activity has no need for conscious processing and therefore any new data, such as the person’s name, has nowhere to go. However, the conscious act of “remembering to remember” a person’s name, combined with the conscious act of inserting that name into the final moments of a conversation helps create a lasting impact – riding on the wave of recency and embedding itself into your new friend’s emotional memory and assessment of you as a positive element of their life.

The essential technique for success in this area comes from “remembering to remember;” to not get waylaid by rote reactionism, or to miss opportunity due to being distracted by insignificant surface-level urgencies. To be “conscious” means to be aware of a situation before going into it; to pro-act, not react, to control the situation and therefore influence your future for the better.

So how is it done? Remembering people’s names is best achieved through word-association. As you shake hands and smile, slip free of the unconscious reaction of the mere handshake and instead use the proactive physical act of extending your hand as a cue. Ask yourself “who does this person look like?” “Who does this person resemble, either from my past or from TV or movies – someone with the same name?” or “what features can I associate, such as hairstyle, glasses, eye color, that I can connect with the word that forms the name?”

This is a practiced skill, and with practice any one of us can memorize twenty or more people’s names in one go. Is this important? Certainly. The daily influx of information that every person faces is a sea of data, act and obligation. Anything that rises above the surface of this sea by making an emotional connection, a bond, helps you to stand out, to be remembered, to be liked. And that is the grail of connection.