You get that meeting with that decision-maker/founder/CEO/titan/guru/expert who can make your project happen.

You've dreamed of this chance for years.

How do you interact with this person?

If you're like most people, you treat them deferentially, meaning you show respect. You don't ask too much of them. After all, they're doing you a favor, right?

I suggest avoiding this strategy, however natural it feels. You risk making them feel put on a pedestal, communicating to them your value and status as lower. Supplicating behavior will lead them to see you as unworthy of their attention.

Yes, though you see them as higher status, you can lead them with your behavior.

By contrast, my experience has shown me that high-value people appreciate when you use them for their expertise.

Tell a master carpenter how incredible you consider their work and ask how they got so good and they'll answer your questions but minimize their interaction. They'll see you as an admirer but not a peer. You might start clinging to them for all they know.

Be Seen As A Peer By Acting Like One

Ask the same person for advice or help instead, especially on something they usually get paid for, and you have a better chance at leading them to see you as an equal.

Caveat: you need social skills above a minimum threshold. Rudely demanding things will alienate most people. I won't go into social skills or how to develop them in this article, but you don't need Bill Clinton levels. In the last paragraph I presumed you had those skills.

People only know about you through your behavior when they meet you, including communication. Behave deserving and people will see you as deserving. Behave subserviently, however politely, deferentially, and respectfully, and people will see you as someone to dismiss.

If these ideas and patterns don't make sense or seem counterintuitive, I recommend playing around with them in your head until they do. Watch people's interactions for these patterns.

When they make sense, here's the next challenge:

How do you follow up a high-value person doing you a favor?

Many people would say to thank them and return the favor.

I agree with the thanking them, but often not on returning the favor.

Often the best way to follow up a high-value person doing you a favor is to ask another favor (after thanking them).

Why?

Think of a time you helped someone getting started. Didn't you want them to succeed? Didn't you feel open to helping them more, expecting their success based on your help would reflect well on you and reinforce your positive feelings about yourself?

People Feel Good Helping Others

You can build relationships by giving people those feelings.

Next thing you know, you'll become peers.

Published on: Jan 29, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.