But what made the biggest impression was what he did when he heard I wanted to meet him: He immediately walked across the room to say hi.
Mark didn't big-time me. Mark made me feel big time.
Simple? Sure. But I've never forgotten it.
That's because genuinely polite people instantly stand out. They make us feel comfortable. They make us feel respected and valued. They make us feel good about ourselves.
And if that's just enough -- in case you need a cold, clinical Type A reason to be more courteous -- we want to do business with them.
So if like me you're trying to be more polite -- and make a better first impression:
1. Always be the one who walks.
You're at a event. A friend gestures to a person across the room and says, "Let me introduce you to Jim."
Jim sees you coming. Jim knows why you're coming. But still: He stands and waits for you to come to him.
Genuinely polite people, no matter how exalted their perceived status, don't wait. They step forward. They smile. They tilt their heads slightly downward (a sign of respect in every culture). They act as if they should be honored by the introduction, not you.
In short, polite people don't "big time" you. Instead they make you feel like you are the one who is big time.
2. Always ask...
If you're talking about something just because it feels really good to share it, and there's no place for the other person to add value... you're just patting yourself on the back.
When polite people want to talk about themselves, they ask for advice -- but not humblebrag advice like, "I notice you keep your car really clean; what wax do you recommend for a Jaguar?"
Ask a question that shows you truly value the other person's expertise or knowledge. The person will feel good, because you implicitly show you trust his or her opinion; you actually get input you can use.
3. And always wait to be asked.
You know things. Cool things. Great things.
Just make sure you share those things in the right settings.
If you're a mentor, share away. If you're a coach or a leader, share away. If you're the guy who just went keto, don't tell us all what to order at dinner. (Unless we ask.)
Polite people know that what is right for them might not be right for others -- and even if it might be right for others, they now it's not their place to decide.
Like most things in life, offering helpful advice is all about picking the right spot -- and polite people know the right spot is always after you are asked.
4. Always make the other person the star.
You meet someone, talk for 30 minutes, and walk away thinking, "Wow, we just had a great conversation. She's awesome."
Of course, when you think about it later, you realize you didn't learn a thing about her.
Polite people are masters at Social Jiu-Jitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened. SJ masters are fascinated by your every career step, your every journey of personal transformation, your every clever maneuver on your climb to the top of your social ladder....
They find you fascinating -- and that gives you permission to find yourself fascinating. (Which is an authorization we all enjoy.)
Social Jiu-Jitsu is easy. As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how she did it. Or why she did it. Or what she liked about it, or what she learned from it, or what you should do if you're in a similar situation.
And don't think you're being manipulative, because you're not. Showing a sincere interest in people isn't manipulative. It's fun -- for you and for them. They get to talk about things they're passionate about, and you get to enjoy their enthusiasm and excitement and passion.
And if that's not enough, think of it this way: No one receives too much respect. Asking other people about themselves implicitly shows you respect them.
Which is great, because respect and courtesy go hand in hand.