PRACTICE: Don’t act embarrassed. If someone asks you a question about a potentially uncomfortable topic, don’t try to diffuse the discomfort by making a joke out of it. That tactic only works in reverse and makes the conversation more uncomfortable.
Instead, work on your poker face. Honor their question despite the fact that you might be totally confused or giggling like a little schoolgirl on the inside. This form of openness will show them that it’s both acceptable and comfortable to discuss difficult issues.Who trusts you?
2. Preserve people’s self-esteem. The need to feel accepted is the driving force of their actions.
PRACTICE: Let them know you need them. Let them know they’ve helped or inspired you. Offer your attention TO and acknowledgment OF their contributions to your worldview. Each of these practices can be accomplished in two words:
Taking notes is proof. Taking notes keeps you mindful in the conversation. Taking notes honors someone’s thoughts. Taking notes is respectful. Taking notes increases someone’s self-esteem. Especially when you email them a copy of your notes five minutes after the conversation. Wow. How are you helping people fall in love with themselves?
3. Tolerate honest mistakes as learning experiences. People don’t need to be reminded how badly they screwed up.
PRACTICE: Instead, people need to be reassured that you’re going to love them when they DO screw up, help them prevent the same mistake from being made again, and partner with them to brainstorm lessons learned from those mistakes.
Try this. At your next meeting, go around the room and require each person to (1) share a mistake they recently made, (2) offer three lessons they learned FROM that mistake, and (3) suggest the practical application of those lessons to the other people in the room.
Then, later that week, create a hard copy of all the mistakes and lessons shared during the meeting. Staple a $20 bill to it and send it to everyone who attended. And what you do is, attach a sticky note that says, “Thanks for being human!” How are encouraging and rewarding mistakes?
4. Treat people with respect and fairness, regardless of their position or influence. Titles are worthless labels whose sole function is to give people a reason to pigeonhole, avoid or judge you.
PRACTICE: Acknowledge everybody. This one shouldn’t even be on my list. But, because not everybody practices this simple act of approachability, I’ve included it. So: Slow down. Stay present. Hold your eye contact with everyone you encounter for one additional second. ONE second. That’s what Bill Clinton does.
Also, see if you can acknowledge every single person you encounter for one whole day. It’s harder than you think. Then again, it all depends on what you see when you see people. Remember: Unspoken hierarchies hamper the freedom of expression and, as a result, create a distance between people. What unnecessary title is preventing people from getting to know the REAL you?
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That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Coach, Entrepreneur
Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.
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