A dear friend of mine likes to say, “it’s hard to see the whole picture when you’re in the frame.” There is a lot of truth and perhaps a gentle “ouch” in that statement. Think about the last time you took a picture with a friend, family member, or other groups of people. What determines the quality of the photo (in your opinion)? It is, of course, how good YOU look in the photo!
Sure other people may have their eyes closed, mouth open, or other unflattering poses, but if the picture of you looks good, it is a “great shot.” From a very early age, all of us are always consciously aware of not only our appearance but also how others perceive us, at almost any moment in any day. This doesn’t make you a bad or vain person; it makes us human beings.
Of course, it is advisable and even acceptable to seek to make good impressions on other people, whether in a business or personal situation. We want to appear competent, relevant, and interesting in almost any and every situation. Perhaps not always, but this is often the case when we are preparing to meet a new potential client or friend. As trite as it is, it remains true that “you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
As with everything else in life, unfortunately, this mindset and desire can quickly get carried to extremes. We have all been around people who either try too hard or are doggedly determined to let you know how much they know and how their lives are perfect all the time. These annoying qualities undermine the person’s sincerity and take away from their authenticity and their attempts to appear as if they are a person worthy of your time and attention.
Today I want to encourage you to take a high-level view of how you act and interact with people. This mindset works whether you are meeting a new person for the first time or are having a daily conversation with a loved one or another person you know intimately. Instead of trying to show the other person how impressive you are, what if you turned the tables and showed them how impressed you are with them?
This may sound like a daunting task to some. However, it is actually a fairly simple exercise that you can teach yourself, which will open the window of opportunity to developing and improving many new and existing relationships. It simply involves developing a habit, which anyone can do. This thought leads me to insert my quote for this week:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”– Will Durant
So my encouragement for you this week is to start, work on every day, and then develop the habit of being interested instead of being interesting. This can be accomplished in three simple (but not easy) steps.
First, look beyond the picture. In other words, humble yourself and take the focus from yourself to the other person or the other people you are with. It takes practice, but you can learn to value other people as much as you value yourself. One word of warning here though. This is accomplished much more easily and with less effort if you have a healthy self-image. I have several posts as well as videos on my YouTube Channel which cover this topic well if you would like to check them out.
The next thing you need to do is take on a child-like quality and ask lots and lots of questions. Ask questions, not for the sake of asking a question, but to help you understand the other person better. Find questions that help others uncover truths about others or gain a deeper understanding of an issue they may be struggling with. This is an art and a habit that you can work on over time to develop, but while you are starting, some of the questions that seem elementary are often the best. Like a child, ask “why?” Not just once or twice, but several or even many times. It is amazing what you can uncover with a simple “why, what else, or tell me more?”
Finally, and just as important as asking questions, is to be prepared to listen. Not just so that you can then offer your opinion or proposal, but so that as I already mentioned, both you and the person or people you are talking with can gain a greater understanding of themselves. A couple of notes to help you become a better listener. First, take notes. Listen for keywords and terms and write them down. Especially those that are packed with emotion. Second, ask clarifying questions. Don’t be afraid to seek clarity. This will help you and will also show respect to the other person.
I would love to hear your feedback on how this shift in mindset works for you. It has changed my relationships with everyone, so I cannot recommend it to you highly enough. By showing that you are interested, people will find you much more interesting, and they will want to invest more (time, money, etc.) with you.
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I also invite you to review my coaching page on my website here. I have only a couple of spots left in my Personal Development Coaching Practice. Each week I offer two free strategy sessions on a first-come, first-served basis to people interested in exploring how to become a person who pursues their goals and dreams. These highly valuable hour-long sessions prove again and again to be invaluable to those who participate. You can book these directly on my coaching page – I look forward to serving you.