Impression management

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Influence as a Productivity and Time Management Power Tool

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Influence as a Productivity and Time Management Power Tool.

When people think about managing time and becoming more efficient, they almost always look at their calendar and ToDo lists to try to figure out how to work faster and how to prioritize. These are good thoughts, certainly, but they miss out on half of their workload problem. It’s not just the work you have to think about – it’s people.

At the end of every request, problem or opportunity, there’s a person waiting for something. Whether it’s a project you have to complete, or a text message you just received, somebody is waiting for something, and this can cause you stress. No one likes to feel rushed or pressured.

Time management is really about people management. It’s about managing expectations, keeping people satisfied by addressing their fear of the unknown, building a personal credit rating, and learning how to exert influence. Let’s look at all four of these.

1. Managing Expectations

A recurring theme in the Cool-Time approach to time management is proactivity. Proactivity means taking charge of an activity or an event before it happens, and consequently affecting the outcome in your favor. Now think about every time someone sends you an email. What are they doing? They have sent something to you and are waiting for a response, for satisfaction. Until they get that response from you, they won’t know what’s going on, and they won’t know when you will reply. This is why many of these people might send a follow-up email that asks, “did you get my last email?”

But what if they have been taught – by you – that you only reply to emails after 1:00 in the afternoon? If they know this about you, then they now have a frame of reference. Even if they send you an email at 9 in the morning, they will know not to expect a reply until after 1:00. They will be – to some degree at least – at peace.

By proactively managing peoples’ expectations, you will be able to carve out more time for yourself and lose some of that stress along the way. Managing expectations means being proactive – making sure people know what to expect from you. How can you do this?

  • By telling them. When you talk or communicate with someone, make sure to remind them about your policies.
  • By using your out of office assistant in email and embedding it in your voicemail greeting.

Anywhere and anytime you have the opportunity, take a moment to proactively inform the people in your life when where and how they can expect a reply from you.

Don’t expect that they will get it the first time. People need repeated notifications for the message to get through – that’s why you see the same ads so often on TV.

If people wonder why you suddenly are replying to emails almost by appointment, you can always blame the changing times. Things are getting faster, times are not what they used to be, and you and your company or department are trying new best practices to do more with time.

The bottom line here is this: you can manage your own time and tasks better by first managing the expectations of the people who are waiting for you.

2. Addressing the Fear of the Unknown

People have an innate fear of the unknown. Imagine you are back in high-school, in first-period gym class, out there on the soccer field on a frosty morning. The gym teacher comes over. You hear one of the two following commands:

“Go out there and give me 12 laps around the field,” or, “Go out there and start running until I blow this whistle.”

Which would you rather hear?

Most people say they would prefer the 12 laps, because it is finite. They know when it will be over and can pull together the resources to get through the effort in front of them.

This shouldn’t be taken lightly. It addresses a fundamental instinctive need that all humans have, to know whether a situation will be a danger. Gym class might not sound so dangerous, but in this scenario, it’s all about knowing how much energy you can spare. Knowing it’s just 12 laps gives you a finite measure – a challenge you can get through.

When you proactively take the time to manage peoples’ expectations, tell them when they can expect a return call, when they can feel “safe” again, you are doing much more than being organized on your end. You are influencing people by speaking directly to their instincts.

3. Bad News Is Better than No News

This is a subset of the Fear of the Unknown principle. Imagine you are running late for a meeting and your phone battery has died. You’re walking – almost jogging – along the sidewalk as fast as you can. You spot a payphone (a rarity these days, I know). Should you stop and call the person you’re meeting, and therefore make yourself even later? Or simply keep your head down and keep on walking?

The answer is to make that call. Even though you’re running late, bad news is always better than no news. That’s because people can start to make other plans or at the very least stand down from their state of anxiety once they know what’s going on.

4. Cialdini’s Six Faces of Influence

Robert Cialdini is one of the foremost experts in influence and he wrote a book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. He describes the six faces of influence that each get people to do what you want them to do, by approaching their psyche in different ways. Those six faces are:

People can either fear you, or they can like you. In almost all cases, liking lasts longer. Robert Cialdini, in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, identifies six ways that you can exert influence over someone. These are:

  • Reciprocity: you give something to me, I feel obliged to give back. This is typical if someone has done you a favor, or if you receive a free sample of something, you feel obliged to buy it.
  • Commitment and consistency: developing and sticking to habits or people that we know and have become comfortable with. People are attracted to consistency because it gives them a sense of comfort. The way you dress, the way you speak, the way you conduct yourself – if you were to change these things radically from day to day, people would not know how to relate to you.
  • Social proof: we decide upon the correct action or opinions based on what others are doing. If I ask you to recommend a good restaurant or a good accountant, if I act on your recommendation, you have influenced my actions through social proof – in other words, another person’s opinions are sufficient to sway my choice.
  • Authority: we believe in and react to the authority of another. I’m the boss. Do this work or you’re fired. You can’t get much more influential than absolute power. But this does not always lead to the type of progress you might be looking for. People don’t tend to put their heart and soul into working for tyrants, which can lead to errors, absenteeism or people simple leaving.
  • Scarcity: we act now out of the fear that the opportunity might not exist in the future. This is used a lot in advertising. “Buy now! Supplies are limited! Weekend blow-out sale! These types of messages try to influence you into buying by making you believe you will b missing out if you don’t at now.
  • Liking: we like to work with people we like. This is by far the most effective. People like to work with those who have shown them respect and who make them feel good.

The bottom line here is that influence is about getting people to do the things you want them to do. It’s more than that, actually. It’s about getting people to want to do the things you want them to do.

Think of the times you have been waiting for someone else to get their work done or show up to a meeting, or on the flip side of this, getting them to leave you alone whether you’re at work, or on personal time. This is all more likely to happen if you can use the tools of influence, most specifically Liking and Reciprocity, to allow them to want to do this.

How to Deploy an Influence Strategy

It has been said by many experts in this field that the secret of success is to spend most of your time in your business, but a certain amount of it working on your business. This is a direct application of the 80/20 rule. Spend 80% of your time doing effective, profitable work, but spend some of the remaining 20% doing things like networking – managing relationships, marketing yourself, listening to others. All of this might sound pie-in-the-sky that add to your existing workloads, but in actual fact, its about building a personal credit rating that helps cut back on work requests, especially those unplanned crises, or simply the pressure of having people bothering you for answers or delaying you because they have forgotten about your deadlines.

People who like you are the people who will find opportunities for you and who will support and guide you.

Influence is about getting people to do what you want them to do. Sure you can command them if you have sufficient authority, but the better approach is to leverage peoples’ natural human desire to collaborate. People are tribal by nature. They want to be part of something, like a group or a team, and most people like to be led by a leader they can believe in.

Influence seems more like an art than a science. It is based on human relationships and interaction. To become more influential:

  • Understand the power of body language. People will tell you more through their body language than they will with their words. You can tell when someone is really engaged, nervous, even lying, by reading their hands, eyes, voice and posture during conversations. But you, too, can use body language as a tool of influence by consciously being aware of what your hands, eyes, voice and posture are telegraphing about you, AND avoiding sending mixed messages through unconscious body language.
  • Practice and demonstrate active listening. Active listening means using your knowledge of body language to demonstrate engagement and interest when you are talking to someone. This is not just about hearing their words; it’s about giving them respect and dignity during the discussion. This in turn translates into greater loyalty and drive from the people you are talking to. Once again, people like to work with – and for – people they like. And his comes largely from a sense of being respected.
  • Network internally. Networking is about getting to know people by taking the time to meet them. At first glance this might seem like a waste of time, especially with all those emails and other tasks you have on your plate. But by budgeting a small amount of time per day to network, to manage by walking around, to talk and to actively listen, you will develop a personal credit rating that pays off. How?

People will read and reply to your emails and work requests more promptly, prioritizing you above other people. They will be more motivated to get their assigned work done more quickly and efficiently. They will be more motivated to show up to your meetings on time.

In short, they will be more willing to do they things you want them to do, through the power of influence.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Influence as a Productivity and Time Management Power Tool. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at stevenprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

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.

CoolTimeLife Podcast: How To Make More Things Go Your Way

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled How To Make More Things Go Your Way. We’ll talk about Michelangelo, Dilbert, jiu-jitsu and Steve Jobs, and your personal credit rating. All of these are  , influence, Steve Jobs. All of these will help describe how you can set the stage for a far more satisfying turn of events in your life. There’s no magic involved. Not even any force. But it is surprisingly easy and consistent.

How can you make more things go your way? We would all like that, but why does it seem so hard? The answer is twofold. First, you have to know how to set the stage. Second, the other people involved – and there are always other people involved – have to want to play along. In other words, they have to want to do what you want them to do. I’m not playing word games here, the issue is simply one of vision paired with influence. Influence is the art of getting people to change their actions through something far more subtle than brute force. Anyone can do it, but it does require a cool mind. To illustrate this, I have two brief stories for you. The first happens back in Renaissance Italy:

Florence, Italy, 1502. An enormous block of marble stood in the yard of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore. It had once been a magnificent piece of raw stone, but an unskilled sculptor had mistakenly bored a hole through it where there should have been a figure’s legs, mutilating it. Piero Soderini, Florence’s mayor, had contemplated trying to save the block by commissioning Leonardo da Vinci to work on it, or some other master, but had given up, since everyone agreed that the stone had been ruined. So, despite the money that had been wasted on it, it gathered dust in the dark halls of the church.

This was where things stood until some Florentine friends of the great Michelangelo decided to write to the artist, then living in Rome. He alone, they said, could do something with the marble, which was still magnificent material.

The great Michelangelo

Michelangelo traveled to Florence, examined the stone, and came to the conclusion that he could in fact carve a fine figure from it, by adapting the pose to the way the rock had been mutilated. Soderini argued this was a waste of time – nobody could salvage such a disaster – but finally he agreed to let the artist work on it. Michelangelo decided he would depict a young David, sling in hand.

Weeks later, as Michelangelo was putting the final touches on the statue, Soderini entered the studio. Fancying himself a bit of a connoisseur, he studied the huge work, and told Michelangelo that while he thought it was magnificent, the nose was too big.

Michelangelo realized Soderini was standing in a place right under the giant figure and did not have the proper perspective. Without a word, he gestured for Soderini to follow him up the scaffold. Reaching the face area, he picked up his chisel, as well as a bit of marble dust that lay on the planks. With Soderini just a few feet below him on the scaffold, Michelangelo started to tap gently with the chisel, letting the bits of dust he had gathered in his hand to fall little by little. He actually did nothing to change the nose, but gave every appearance of working on it. After a few minutes of this charade he called aside: “Look at it now.”

“I like it better,” replied Soderini, “you’ve made it come alive.”

In this story, Michelangelo sought to change the mind of his client not through confrontation, but by using his understanding of the Mayor’s ego to arrive at a satisfactory meeting of priorities. That’s influence.

This story, by the way is from my favourite book of all time, From The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene, p. 97-98, one of the best books ever written on the subject of human relationships.

It is so much easier to make things happen by pulling people along in the direction they want to go. It’s kind of like the martial art of Jiu Jitsu – in which defence and ultimate victory are attained not by trying to his someone with brute force, but by moving with the direction of the opponents blow, and actually using his own energy to destabilize him. It’s very elegant, to go with the momentum of the flow rather than place yourself as a solid target.

Dilbert’s Murphy Chair

So here’s a second story, and this is one that often gets a laugh during my speeches.  And for this one, I owe thanks to Scott Adams, the cartoonist behind Dilbert, as well as the office furnishings company IDEO. A few years back, IDEO, and Adams teamed up to design the “ultimate cubicle – the perfect workspace.

Of the many features available in this design, one of the most intriguing was the “Murphy chair.” Its premise was simple. Rather than having a second chair in the work area of the cubicle, the Murphy chair was actually a panel that would fold down from the cubicle wall to create a seating space, in much the same way a Murphy bed folds out of a wall to create a bedroom. From an influence perspective, the most fascinating feature of the Murphy chair was that it was wired to the telephone in the cubicle, so that a few minutes after the seat was “deployed,” it made the phone ring, thereby prompting the visitor to understand: it’s time to go.

The seat-phone connection is a tool of influence – making or reminding a visitor of the need to leave due to a socially acceptable and higher-priority situation: “Oh your phone’s ringing. I should get going.”

Technology appeals to an inner set of instinctive priorities, and influences people to behave immediately. Although there’s a good deal of humor built into the design, it highlights a classic opportunity. Influence happens best when motivation comes from inside the other person, rather than being placed upon them.

There are many ways these lofty concepts can be integrated into daily life to ensure people behave and cooperate with you to help you achieve your goals. Here are just a few very doable actions.

Make things tangible. Just like Scott Adam’s chair, tangibility goes a long way in giving people a common vision.  Start with your calendar. If you want time to be left alone to get work done without interruption, make sure your colleagues or clients can see your calendar. It should have some times blocked off, and some times intentionally left open. It is much easier to get someone to come back if you give them visible proof of your availability and steer them towards those spaces.

Give them the comfort of the known. If you want to talk to someone, or have a phone call, give them an exact time and duration of the call. Let them understand this will not be a vague, never-ending conversation, but will instead be a fixed amount of time. A very low risk undertaking.

Don’t Overload People

If you want people to respond to your requests, do not overload them. Many people try to send too much information at one time, especially in emails. The simple rule should be a 1-2-3-4 approach like this: follows:

  1. Include only one message. If you tell someone more than one idea in an email, they will most likely forget all but one of the items, or even delay acting on any of them. It’s just too much. Even though it appears on the surface to be more efficient to cram a bunch of ideas into one message, the opposite is true. If you have three different messages to send to people, send them in three separate emails. So again, step 1 – one message.
  2. Use bullets. Those little black dots are excellent in guiding the eye around a page. The human eye is an amazing device, but it likes to conserve energy. It is drawn to graphic objects much more quickly than it is to text. This means your bullet symbols will result in less distraction by your reader.
  3. Tell your reader three times. Yes, three. Just like your high-school teacher might have taught you when preparing a report or an essay. You tell your readers what you are about to say, then you tell them then you tell them what you just told them. In the context of an email, this means your subject line should completely summarize, in 12 words or less, what your message is. Ideally, your reader should not have to read the email at all, if the subject line does its job properly. In fact, it’s a good idea to go on that assumption. The shorter and the clearer, the better.

Next you tell your story, in no more than three paragraphs, with the opening paragraph covering your key message, and the second paragraph providing support material or evidence. Again, assume your reader is not going to read the entire paragraph, but will just read the first line. Write accordingly.

At the end of your email, ideally as a PS., a post-script following your signature, tell them again. Give your reader a kick in the pants on the way out. This sounds severe, but it has always been a principle of human nature that attention spans are short, and memory is unreliable. This is doubly true in the age in which social media, texting, and other technologies threaten to take your reader’s attention away before you are finished with them.

  1. Make sure your email is entirely visible on one screen – the 4 items – the opening – Dear Steve, the bulleted paragraphs, the signature, and the Post Script should all be visible without scrolling. Why is this important? Because once again, is removes a fear from your reader. A fear of the unknown – how long is this email going to be? A fear of commitment. A fear of losing too much time.

Even though an email is a written message, it should be thought of more as a graphic advertisement, something whose visual appearance shouts, Hey, this is not that hard! You can do this.

Remember we are talking her about how to make things go your way. Getting people to read your emails and act upon them quickly goes a long way towards achieving your goals in this area.

Your Personal Credit Rating

But there’s something else. Something more human than email, and that has to do with your credit rating. Not the financial one that you use to borrow money, but your personal rating.

If you want things to go your way, you have to think about how people relate to you and how you want them to relate to you.

People can either fear you, or they can like you. In almost all cases, liking lasts longer. Robert Cialdini is a world-renowned expert in influence. In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he identifies six different ways that you can exert influence over someone. These are:

  • Reciprocity: you give something to me, I feel obliged to give back. I put out my hand to and you feel obliged to shake it.
  • Commitment and consistency: developing and sticking to habits or people that we know and have become comfortable with. Politicians very seldom change their hairstyle or clothing style once in office. They know people put faith in a consistent and reliable image that must not change, even a little bit, from day to day.
  • Social proof: we decide upon the correct action or opinions based on what others are doing. We see people wearing a certain fashion, most of us want to wear that. We ask for a recommendation for a good restaurant and we believe that you know what you’re talking about when you name a place.
  • Authority: we believe in and react to the authority of another. We know he or she is the boss or the leader and we respond accordingly.
  • Scarcity: we act now out of the fear that the opportunity might not exist in the future. Advertising is full of this: “order now, supplies are limited,” or these sale prices will not last.

And finally, there is Liking: we like to work with people we like. This is my favorite one and I think it is the most successful. People like to work with people they like. This doesn’t mean “love” nor does it mean an excessive devotion. But it refers to comfort and respect. If I acknowledge your hard work, if I talk to you face to face and genuinely listen to what you have to say, if I make you feel comfortable and respected, you are likely to respond with greater comfort and trust towards me.

This again is not something I wish to use as a tool of manipulation, but the truth is, if I need you to show up on time, or provide me with your part of the project, complete and on time, or if I need you to fill in for me, or if I simply want you to read and respond to my messages promptly – and possibly prioritize them higher than the others, the odds are better you will do this if you like me to some degree, rather than fear me.

I mentioned in a previous podcast that I believe the concept of leadership really comes down to one word: acknowledgement. People like to be acknowledged, and they will indeed reciprocate.

Now it could be said that many highly successful people such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett made their billions by not necessarily being the nicest person in the room. I have never met them, so I don’t know how nice they may be. They became influential through social proof and authority. If you are in the same camp as these guys, that’s great. Use what you’ve got. But most people will not become the mega-giants of industry that Steve, Bill and Warren are. Most will instead carve out a career as part of a machine, not as the owner of the machine. Most people will judge their own success on a combination of elements, including financial security, job satisfaction, family and health.

If you can invest some of your time into the nurturing of relationships – invest part of that 80/20 rule I’m always talking about, you will build a collection of people that not only know you, but who also have positive feelings about you, feelings that you can capitalize on in an ethical and mutually beneficial way. People who like you are the people who will find opportunities for you and who will support and guide you.

I hope you will see that these topics extend well beyond the world of email and meetings. They can be applied to all aspects of life. They just need that cool clear head that keeps you aware of your surroundings and your great capacity to influence the world around you, and in turn, your future.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled How to Make More Things Go Your Way. If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

CoolTimeLife Podcast: Are You Conscious?

This blog comprises show notes for my CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Are You Conscious. It describes how moving from reactive to proactive is a positive brain-body exercise that will help you do things right, do things better, and foster more constructive relationships.

Are you conscious? I don’t mean, are you awake? I mean are you really conscious? Are you in the moment? Are you able to know what is going on around you and pro-act accordingly?

This is an essential part of getting things done the way you want them to be done, but it is something that so often gets terribly overlooked. We have become overrun by external stimuli like emails and texts, as well as the simple momentum of life, to the point that, in many cases, we simply react. But being a slave to reaction is very expensive. In this podcast, I want to share with you why that is so dangerous and counterproductive, and what you can do to turn this around. But first, let’s go to the airport.

Imagine yourself for a moment in the departure lounge of an airport. You are rushing to catch a connecting flight, half-jogging to the gate and pulling your wheeled carry-on bag behind you. A sign on the wall catches your eye. It says “Beware! There are pickpockets in this area.”

Now what is the thing you are most likely to do at this moment? If you are like 95% of the traveling public you will instinctively reach for your wallet, your purse or the breast pocket of your blazer – wherever you remember your money to be.

Bad move. That is precisely what a good pickpocket wants you to do. This is the reaction they are looking for. In fact, the first priority for any ambitious pickpocket is to locate the nearest warning sign or maybe even bring one with them, and stand near it, since this is where success happens.

Human beings are hard-wired to react, especially to dangerous or threatening stimuli. The threat of a pickpocket in the area immediately forces the unsuspecting passer-by to touch the location where the money is stored, as an attempt to neutralize the threat by ensuring the money is still there. But by doing so, the passer-by is basically saying to the pickpocket, “Hey, thief, my money is here, OK?” and pointing at it.

The reaction gives away precisely what the pickpocket wants: the correct location of the goods.

In this situation, the unsuspecting traveler reacts as all living creatures do. Alerted to danger, instinct takes over. The pickpocket on the other hand, pro-acts, anticipating the turn of events and setting a trap. The thief is writing the history of the next few minutes even before they happen. The thief anticipates the reaction of all but the coolest of airport travelers and communicates an influential message by way of the warning sign itself. A perfect trap.

In the working world, the challenges we experience with managing time come from this same reality – the one that says we must react. When emails come in, we feel compelled to read them. It’s a reaction based on an instinct that addresses our fear of the unknown. When someone interrupts, we feel obliged to respond. When a meeting planner books a meeting, we feel obliged to go, even if it messes up the entire afternoon. Reaction makes us follow the calendar’s commands. This is neither healthy nor productive.

Think about Phishing emails.

Phishing emails are a modern day equivalent of pickpocketing and are the conduit for a wide variety of common business crises, like hacking, data breaches and ransomware. You check your email and see a message that looks very legitimate – it has the logo and everything – and says, “your bank account has been frozen,” or even “Job application, please click here to download my résumé.” Without thinking, you click on the link and the malware pours into your system because rather than stopping and thinking about this, you react, click, and invite the bad guys in.

Pro-action, by contrast, can put you back in the driver’s seat, and back in control. This is such a crucial part of life, work, productivity and online security.

The Physiology of Being in – or not in – Control

There is a physiological response that happens when you and your body sense that you are at a particular level of control – that danger has been put aside. When this happens, it feels good. Nutrient, oxygen, blood – they all move where they need to go and they do so more efficiently. This means to the brain, certainly, but also to the digestive system, and many other vital areas. When you feel good, your body feel good. When your body feels good, it works best.

So let’s look at things from the opposite side. When an email, an interruption or any sort of distraction happens to you, your instinct response with a fight-or-flight reflex that we have known and felt for hundreds of thousands of years. During this response, you stop thinking clearly. All of the nutrients and all of the elements that are distributed reasonably equally around your body are quickly removed to other places. The blood, nutrients and oxygen in your brain are shift over to the amygdala – the anger center of the brain, to immediately handle this unexpected urgency.

  • Digestion tends to stop or low to a crawl
  • Vision goes into “tunnel vision”
  • Your ability to prioritize tasks or actions freezes up

All these things happen as soon as you start to feel not in control. It’s a significant physiological response.

The Art of Saying “No.”

“No” is one of the hardest words in the English language, because so often, saying it leads to conflict or problems. It can be an insult, a challenge to another person’s dignity, made even worse if this person is your boss, your customer or your partner. It might even lead to confrontation and bad feeling.

But you can look at the word “No” as being a shortened version of the word Negotiate. Everything in life can be negotiated. There are alternatives, there are deadline extensions there are other alternatives to taking care of a task. Everything that has been loaded onto your plate can be negotiated.

It’s a matter of managing peoples’ expectations in a way that makes them feel they are still being looked after, even if the conditions of the request have been changed to something more manageable.

But if you are not in that conscious state, if you are still in the fight-or-flight-response mode, then there will be no creative space for coming up with alternatives. It’s about keeping a cool head. Being able to think clearly requires a capacity for, and a genuine sense of being in control.

Once you have that, you are able to influence peoples’ decisions, negotiate alternative outcomes, and steer things to a more comfortable and productive conclusion than that which happens when reaction is the only choice.

Fight-or-flight represents pickpocketing in real life. Your time and your mental capacity are being stole from you because of reaction and fear.

Remembering Peoples’ Names

One of the most significant and treasures words in the English language – or any language for that matter – is a person’s name, interjected at the right place and time. Inserting a person’s name into a conversation demonstrates to them that you have genuine care and interest in them. All human beings have two sides: an emotional side and a rational side. The emotional side always dominates. The most powerful emotion of all is fear. This is why we get caught up and get disoriented in moments of uncertainly and confusion. Fear rules everything.

But no matter what line of business you are in, no matter how rational and logical you feel yourself to be, the people you react with and the people with whom you work, the people that you serve – customers, clients, managers, colleagues, everyone – they are all emotionally driven. When you can contact that emotional base, you make a far more profound connection with them.

This turns into an increased willingness for people to cooperate with you, to participate in projects or meetings, all the positive reactions that come from this positive feeling. So keeping a cool head generally means that whenever you can address people by name, as emotional beings, they will want to work with you. They will in essence love you for acknowledging ther dignity and moving with them in a way that motivates them.

So one of the easiest ways to do that is to remember someone’s name and use it in your conversation.

But there’s a catch. Often, when you meet someone and they introduce themselves by name, you will have forgotten it 30 seconds later. Tat happens because the act of meeting someone involves a physical protocol. It varies among countries, but for many of us it involves a short handshake, a small amount of eye contact and a light smile. This is a trained action that you have committed to physical muscle memory. It does not require any conscious processing. So when you hear a person’s name, there is no conscious processing that confirms “I must memorize this.”

When you can insert that person’s name – not overly frequently but just toward the conclusion of the conversation, the message is, “I care about you enough to remember your name – to remember you as a specific person. That word – a person’s name – carries a huge weight.

The trick to remembering peoples’ names is – as you shake hands, and as you hear the person’s name, you do a word association trick. You connect a person’s name to something about them – their hairstyle their clothing, their glasses or jewelry, maybe a physical resemblance to someone you know, or knew in high school, or a TV or movie character. It’s a silent word association game that will allow you to connect to this person’s name, at least for the duration of the conversation.

It’s a fantastic trick that you can do with dozens of people at a time, at a networking meeting, for example. But only after you have practiced this skill.

The point is, you must remember to remember to do it! That’s the trick. If you go into a conversation and shake hands with a stranger while you’re still in in reactive mode, you won’t remember to do this. That’s where the word association and memory component will come in – when you remember to stay in pro-active mode.

When you do this successfully, you will move up on this person’s emotional checklist of “liked” people. You will come across as someone who cares, someone who is interesting, and someone  who they wish to work with.

The Bottom Line

You have much to gain from stepping away from reaction and replacing it with pro-action and cool thought. Your entire body will thank you for it and will support you.

This is the transcript of the CoolTimeLife podcast entitled Are You Conscious? If you would like to listen to it, you can check it out at our podcast site here. If you would like to review other podcasts in this series, visit my podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html

If you feel you derived value from this blog or the adjoining podcast, please consider supporting our work by sending a small donation of $1.00, $2.00 or $5.00. It helps us give more time to research and prepare the episodes. The secure PayPal link is available on the podcast page at steveprentice.com/podcast.html.

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?

##

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.

CloudTweaks logo

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.