Have you ever met someone and everything just seems to click? You feel like you’ve known the person forever because talking to them is easy?
You begin to talk about your interests. The other person appears to be engrossed in the conversation as she is asking questions and making comments.
You feel comfortable and want further contact with the person, so you ask for his/her business card. You exchange cards. However, when you call, you continue to receive that person’s voice mail and they do not respond to any of your emails. You’re not sure what went wrong…
Perhaps your perception of the interaction was not the same as the other person. If you think back, what did you learn about the other person? Was the conversation focused on both of you or was it one-sided? Today’s lesson will help you become aware of how you are perceived by others.
Let’s say you’re hosting a special get-together at your home. You plan the event. You decide on a theme and begin to plan activities: decorations, food, beverage, music, etc. Your goal is to create an environment where your guests will feel welcomed. This is the same with first impressions.
Each time you encounter someone, you are inviting he/her into your personal space. Your image is your environment and the goal is to make your guests feel welcomed. Your guests respond accordingly to how they feel when they interact with you and vice-versa. You and the other person should receive what each person needs from the interaction (to feel they are being heard).
How do you achieve this balance?
The key is giving the other person what they need from the contact.
What is appropriate conversation?
Ask yourself: “What is the purpose of the contact?” This will give you an idea of what the other person is seeks. Another clue is the type of event: Is it a business meeting, networking event, or casual event? This will offer clues as to what is appropriate for conversation. For example, if the purpose of the contact is to discuss how your companies can work together on a project, then the focus of the conversation should not be on how well your company will benefit from the venture. The other person wants to know how working with your company will benefit them, so the conversation should be on how they will benefit or how both companies mutually benefit.
How do you feel about yourself?
Your emotions affect how you enter initial contact. Assess how you feel: Do you feel nervous, comfortable, bored, happy, etc.? For example, if you feel comfortable, you may not think about what you are first going say to the other person because you feel familiar. But, if you are nervous, you thoughts may consume of what you are going to say. If you feel intimidated, you may avoid the other person altogether. These feelings are natural during contact. Use your emotions as a gauge to measure how you interact with the other person. It will become easier to approach others when you are aware of how you feel because it allows you to plan how to begin contact.
How do you feel about the other person?
A natural and unconscious part of your interaction with the other person is evaluating whether you want to continue contact. You begin to assess your feelings toward the other person such as whether you like them, how they respond to you, do you feel the other person is listening. These feelings will indicate whether you want to continue contact with the other person.
How does the other person feel about you?
What clues does the other person display about their impression of you? Is the person smiling, Is she looking away or is she giving you eye contact? What does her body language indicate (i.e. “open” – facing you, eye contact, etc.) or “closed” – facing away, arms tightly folded, looking away)? These gestures will alert you to how you can proceed with the discussion (i.e. ask questions about the other person’s interests, change the topic, close the conversation), etc.
How does the other person feel about themselves around you?
I love the quote by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor that states “You are responsible for the energy you bring to me…” It describes the impact you can have on another person. For example, if you speak poorly of someone or speak negatively about situations and people, that person may leave the conversation with a poor view of who you are. On the other hand, if you share information that may be insightful or motivating, then that person may feel confident after talking to you.
If you are meeting someone for the first time, a way to help others have a positive experience is to shift the focus on the other person and take a genuine interest in them. You can ask questions about the other person (“What are your thoughts on…?). For instance, you could say, “I like watching action movies. What type of movies do you like?” This gives the other person an opportunity to share something about her while she learned that you like action movies.
This focus is described as being socially generous; meaning you put others’ needs and feelings before your own (Demaris and White, 2004).
Obtaining balance in the engagement
When you genuinely focus on how you can give socially to others, it is more often than not that you will find the other person giving back to you. It forms the foundation of what could be the beginning of a friendship, partnership, relationship, etc. You will also be able to determine whether you are getting what you need as well.
Do you think about how the other person feels when you are engaging in conversation or do you focus only on how you feel?
How does considering the other person’s feelings enrich your relationship with others?
In what ways does considering how the other person feels improve your first impression?
What will you change now to improve others perceive you?
How are you enjoying the lessons so far? I would love to hear what you think. You can post any comments or questions below or you can contact me. The next (and last lesson) is on building your confidence by identifying those thoughts that may hinder your confidence and how to challenge them. I’ll send it to you in the next several days.