What your prospects, clients and employees are thinking in key moments when you arent paying attention.
Imagine this: Youre in a hurry. Youve got to go to the bank, the post office, and the printer and be back in the office in time for the computer repair specialist. You see one open parking space. Another car is slowly, haltingly coming towards the same space.
You decide that they are not really interested in the space and zoom into it, jumping out of your car and running into the bank. Out of the corner of your eye you see the other drivers upset face.
Youre a good person, but hey, its a busy world and you have things to do, so you convince yourself its not really a problem.
Now imagine this:
Later that day you go to an event in your community where you hope to promote your business. Several people there know you and know what a dedicated, service-oriented person you are. One such person introduces you to a newcomer to the group who slowly shakes your hand and says with narrowed eyes, Oh I know you. Youre the one who took my parking space at the bank this morning.
Whether you are a small business owner or an executive in a large company, you are always visible and therefore always available for judgment. Why? Because the human brain is programmed to create patterns from bits of data, and like it or not, intentional or not, your behaviors and actions are data points. Even seemingly small moments of discourtesy can create a lasting impression.
1. A collection of moments is a collection of data points
You would never tell your employees to answer the phone with Hey, Im busy! What do you want? and most professionals would never do that. But a harried employee might have a tone of voice where the subtext says that very thing. For example, my doctor is very good and therefore he is very busy.
When I call the office to book an appointment, one of the women always sighs and says in a put-upon voice Hold on, let me see whats open. Now, I go into my head and add other data points and interpret her subtext as Youre creating a big inconvenience for me.
Heres a very different example:
I have lunch in a busy café whenever Im in that neighborhood maybe once or twice a month. The waitresses always greet me like an old friend no matter how busy they are. They smile, they make eye contact, and they say things like Whereve you been? We missed you! And guess what? My pattern-happy brain has decided that this is a great place and I want to come here.
2. People will connect the dots in the way that makes sense to them.
Each of us has a history, a set of experiences, a set of values, and a perspective that is uniquely our own. When we experience moments like those described above, we add them to the vast stores of data in our brains. Since each of us is different, we connect those moments to existing patterns and interpretations.
Thus, I might interpret the medical receptionists behavior as thoughtless and uncaring, while someone else might see her as overworked, and still another person would not even notice any subtext. Again, we will connect the dots in the way that makes to us, and most of the time we dont question our assumptions.
About the author
Lisa Parker, President and Founder, Heads Up Coaching and Consulting, Inc. is an experienced and sought-after professional executive coach, seminar leader and author with over twenty years of corporate and non-profit coaching experience in the U.S. and abroad. Her areas of expertise include executive presence, presentation skills, communication skills and leadership effectiveness. Lisa's approach is always practical, goal-focused, and highly interactive.
Lisa started her corporate career as a risk analyst in the insurance industry, and spent over 20 years working in a variety of roles include marketing, product development, and human resources. An executive in her own right, Lisa held leadership positions with several Fortune 100 and 500 companies. In 2006 she founded her own coaching firm, and in 2013 she published Managing the Moment: A Leader's Guide to Building Executive Presence One Interaction at a Time.