OWNER'S MANUAL

What If You Treat Every Person You Meet This Sensational Way?

The results could be amazing--for the people you meet and for you.
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One of my clients is famous. Big time famous. Famous in that weird way that even people who don't know exactly what he does or why he's famous still instantly recognize him as somebody. (Unfortunately, I can't tell you who he is since he's a client, and mum is always the word.)

The same thing happens every time people meet him:

  • They take a step forward.
  • They make eye contact.
  • They reach to shake hands in an eager and excited way.
  • As they do, they bow their heads slightly, as if to nonverbally say, "I am so glad to meet you."
  • They hold the handshake for an extra beat, almost as if they're reluctant to let go.
  • They actually say, "I am so glad to meet you."
  • They smile. Hugely.
  • And they keep smiling and making eye contact...because they clearly feel it's awesome to meet him.

It's pretty cool to watch. And it makes me think.

What if we did the same thing every time we meet someone new? What if we didn't worry about comparative levels of status or pecking order, didn't worry about wearing our emotions on our sleeves, didn't worry about making ourselves vulnerable by possibly coming across a little too sincere or a little too happy?

What if you treat every person you meet with the same enthusiasm you would show if you met one of your heroes?

Most importantly, how would the other person feel if you treated them that way?

That answer to the last question is simple. You would not only make a great first impression but also a lasting impression. After all:

  • We tend to like people who like us, and
  • We tend to think well of people who think well of us, and
  • We tend to remember the people who think meeting us is something they will remember.

Of course I'm not saying it will be easy. I should know, because it definitely isn't easy for me. Unless I feel sure of myself in a particular situation I tend to be fairly insecure. So when I meet people after, say, a speaking engagement, I'm comfortable. In those situations, I'm pretty confident.

Unfortunately confidence is conditional, and I can think of plenty of situations where I'm definitely not confident. Sure, I shake hands and make eye contact, but I know I don't come across as well as I could. Sadly my shyness can even make me seem aloof, remote, or detached.

That's not my intention--but it is what sometimes happens. And the effect on the people I meet can be, at best, underwhelming.

Then I think about the time I met Wolverine. I was thrilled. I forgot all about feeling shy or insecure. (After all: Wolverine!) I didn't worry about coming across as too excited or too, well, anything. Just like the people who meet my client, I was just glad to meet him--and I let it show.

Now whenever I meet someone new, I try to mentally flash back to that moment. I know I can turn loose my inhibitions and be engaging and sincere and genuinely interested. I've done it before. All I have to do is treat every person I meet as someone I'm genuinely delighted to meet, someone I'm genuinely honored to meet, because for that moment they should be.

Try it. Imagine that each person you meet could turn out to be your next customer, your next important connection, or your next great friend. Then treat each person that way.

When you do, the odds are much greater they will turn out to be exactly what you imagine they could be.

Even if they don't, you will still have made another person feel valued and special--and making people feel valued and special is reason enough.

Last updated: Mar 6, 2014

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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