As the line goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. So it comes as no surprise that if you want to build influence, it starts with how you enter a room. It’s about how you look, how you act and what you say – in that order. It’s about making a connection with people, which begins in the unconscious mind, before you start thinking about the content, which is the job of the conscious mind.
This was a sentiment expressed by Nick Morgan on HBR’s blog network, to which he offered three simple pieces of advice that struck a chord with me. Not because the advice is new, but because it’s a fresh three-step take, and because it’s a good reminder.
First, check yourself. You might have your game face on, but what about the rest of you? Do you look like you’ve slept in your clothes? “Your clothes are talking about you. Always look sharp” says Bob Seelert. Be aware of your nonverbal cues – the way you walk, how you hold yourself, and where you tend to stand in a room. These cues will give your game away if you’re slinking, slouching or standing in a corner. They signal your intentions and feelings, and are thus a key determinant of your relationships with other people and your influence on them. You should be paying attention to them and deciding whether they project an image you’re happy with, or how you might improve it.
Now you’re ready to start thinking about your emotions. Clear your mind (most of us will have a lot to clear – this is what Buddhists call ‘monkey mind’) and focus on one key emotion, one that demands attention. That focus on one emotion is what makes people charismatic. That’s how they take over a room. People feel that focus and become infected by it. We’re hard-wired to notice strong emotions in others.
Finally, if you want to influence people, you’d better have something to be influential about. Invite your conscious mind to the party. All eyes are on you.