Monthly Archives: June 2016
Can you believe this guy? Never acknowledges your presence. Interrupts you in meetings. Yawns in your face. Mocks your wardrobe. Smacks his gum. Talks to you like you’re 8 years old. Keeps asking to borrow two dollars even though the Cheez-It packs in the vending machine are only 95 cents. Never pays you back. Slaps you on the back while you’re drinking coffee. Exists on the earth. Haunts your dreams.
You gonna respond to all that offense? Of course you are. But you’re not going to reveal that you can’t stand the guy. You’re not going to act annoyed. Acting annoyed or put upon or beleaguered suggests that you have lost some control, that you’ve been thrown off your game.
In business, restraint is the only means of disarming the jerk.
(That and, you know, firing, ending your partnership with or having the jerk arrested for stealing your money and slapping you all the time. But for the purposes of this column, let’s assume your counterpart must, for professional reasons, remain in your universe.)
# Staying Clean When Things Get Dirty
Etiquette is about taking the high road. But when dealing with someone you can’t stand, it’s not enough to take the high road. You want to be in a car on that high road. Better yet: a large truck. Windows up. Both hands on the wheel. You want to stay clean. You don’t want to provide the other party with any evidence that you can be a jerk yourself. If the person’s behavior is actually sinister, then you’re only falling into their trap. And there’s a lot at stake when you fight jerkiness with jerkiness.
Remember that you might be in the truck, but (and this metaphor is about to get a lot more strained) you’re pulling a trailer that is your business and your reputation. Big trailer. Huge. With fragile cargo.
“For me, it’s the 10-second rule–it’s not doing anything on the spot,” says Gianna Provenzano, CEO of Gianna and Company, a Los Angeles-based wedding- and event-planning business. “Once you say something, you can’t pull it back in. It’s about picking your fights.”
Ten seconds at a minimum. We’d suggest 20, even 30. A minute. Maybe an hour. In business, 80 percent of responding appropriately is not responding at all. What we’re talking about is underreacting.
The problem with any kind of talking in a professional environment is that you’re giving up your position. And when you act indignant, your position is revealed to be a swamp of weakness and bad temper. An overt response is almost always a mistake. You might be in a swamp of indignation, but you don’t want to reveal that.
You’re going to regret doing battle. And you’re going to regret it because a battle can happen only when someone gets to win. But there’s no winning among associates. As Tom Junod, my colleague and longtime Esquire writer, said in his 2011 essay “A Philosophy of Fighting”: “Anyone can win … if they’re willing to win at the cost of love and respect. The question is who can abstain from winning, who can resist the temptation of winning.” Winning is what businesses do. Navigating is what businesspeople do. An interpersonal issue is never conquered; it’s traversed.
If the first thing to do is shut up, the second thing to do is think of a few things that might be causing the other person to behave in a way that you can’t stand. Maybe they lost a lot of money at the dog track. Maybe their father never said “I love you.” Maybe their underpants are literally, somehow, in defiance of the laws of physics, in some sort of wad. This will cut through your outrage and recalibrate you back to the sympathetic human being you are. And once you’re recalibrated, you should do this: Stare.
Bemused is the reaction you’re going for. Say “Huh” the same way you would say it if you were walking down the street and saw a Chihuahua walking on its hind legs while wearing a sailor suit.
You know, “Huh.” You’re not smiling. You’re not frowning. You’re nonplussed. The series of questions implied by your furrowed brow is:What’s wrong with you? Why would you behave in such a manner? Where does one find such a tiny sailor outfit? Bewilderment is underrated. It places the onus on the offender to answer a question, without you having to ask it.
It’s about breaking the expectation of the offending party, according to Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder and COO of BlogHer, a women-focused cross-platform media network: “It’s all about ‘hands,’ as Seinfeld would say. If you can’t have the upper hand, you at least have the equal hand. It’s very psychological. You’re trying to disarm their usual pattern.”
Is it passive-aggressive? Of course it is. But in the relatively dignified environment of business, this is the only kind of aggressiveness available to you. So employ it.
It’s an elegant thing, disrupting the jerk. The offender has pushed things to a state of imbalance. Your subtly expressed bewilderment will recalibrate the situation. And the calibration is exclusively in your favor. You’ll be in an advantageous position: free to go about your business.
# Key Technical Matters
Fight the urge to fight–verbally or physically.
Psychologically is fine.
When talking to someone you can’t stand, never use the phrase, “I have to be honest.” What follows won’t be pretty, and honesty isn’t necessarily the right approach.
Make a list of the things you don’t like about the person.
Cross off the things that are minor nuisances.
If there are more than five things still on the list, you may, in fact, be dealing with a jerk.
If there are more than 10 things still on the list, you may, in fact, be dealing with a sociopath.
To determine if the person you can’t stand is your enemy, say the person’s name out loud. If you are squinting and shaking your fist, the person is your enemy.
If you are squinting, shaking your fist and sneering, then the person is your archenemy.
If you are squinting, shaking your first, sneering and stroking a white cat, then you are an evil genius in a James Bond movie, and you need to relax.
The rules are slightly different from standard social settings, yet business schools rarely discuss professional etiquette topics.
In her new book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette,” Barbara Pachter writes about the specific skills professionals need to understand when presenting themselves in a business setting.
From how to introduce yourself to what to order at restaurants, these are the social rules you need to know when establishing relationships.
Pachter has given us permission to use these excerpts from her book.
# Always say your full name
In a business situation, you should use your full name, but you should also pay attention to how others want to be introduced.
If your name is too long or difficult to pronounce, Pachter says you should consider changing or shortening it. Or you should consider writing down the pronunciation of your name on a business card and giving it to others.
# Always stand when you’re being introduced to someone
“Standing helps establish your presence. You make it easy for others to ignore you if you don’t stand. If you are caught off guard and cannot rise, you should lean forward to indicate that you would stand, if you could.”
# Only say “thank you” once or twice during a conversation.
# Send separate thank you notes to everyone involved
“Before you choose between email and handwritten notes, consider that regular mail may take several days to get to its destination while email arrives almost immediately. This time difference can be important after a job interview, if the hiring decision is being made quickly.”
# Never pull out someone’s chair for them
It’s OK to hold open a door for your guest, but Pachter says you shouldn’t pull someone’s chair out for them regardless of gender. In a business setting, you should leave those social gender rules behind.
“Both men and women can pull out their own chairs.”
# Don’t cross your legs
“The bottom line, however, is health related: crossing your legs is bad for your circulation because it increases the pressure on your veins.”
# Keep your fingers together when you point
“Point with an open palm, and keep your fingers together. If you point with your index finger, it appears aggressive. Both men and women point, but women have a tendency to do it more than men.”
# Do not push away or stack your dishes
“You don’t want to make your guest feel uncomfortable by eating a course alone,” Pachter says.
# If the host follows certain dietary restrictions, consider the restaurant they’re taking you before ordering
For example, if your boss is a vegetarian but chose to meet you at a steak house, Pachter says “by all means you can order steak.”
# Know where to properly place plates and silverware
“Food is placed to the left of the dinner plate. The words food and left each have four letters; if the table is set properly, your bread or salad or any other food dish, will be placed to the left of your dinner plate. Similarly, drinks are placed to the right of the dinner plate, and the words glass and right contain five letters. Any glass or drink will be placed to the right of the dinner plate.”
“Left and right also work for your utensils. Your fork (four letters) goes to the left; your knife and spoon (five letters each) go to the right.”
Also, think “BMW” when trying to remember where to place plates and glasses. The mnemonic BMW here stands for “bread, meal, and water” so remember that “your bread-and-butter plate is on the left, the meal is in the middle, and your water glass is on the right.”
# The host should always pay
“However, the bottom line is that you don’t want to fight over a bill. If a male guest insists on paying despite a female host’s best efforts, let him pay.”
# Prepare a polite exit
You should also have “exit lines” prepared in case you need to leave a conversation. You can say “Nice to meet you” or “Nice talking to you” or “See you next week at the meeting.”
You can also excuse yourself for a bathroom break, to get food, or say you wanted to catch someone before they leave.
Having even just one relationship with an online influencer can have a significant impact on your business. Online influencers are people who have a dynamic personality that comes across online and they command the respect of other key players in their niche. Relationships with influencers are sought after by business owners because these people help shape consumer decision making by popularizing products and ideas, and promoting things across multiple channels.
The good news is that many top influencers also happen to be fairly accessible, even when you think it’s impossible to connect with them. Here are five relatively easy ways to connect with powerful influencers who can hopefully help your business get to the next level:
# Get connected through someone you know
Whether online or off, when you get introduced to someone new by a mutual friend you are coming with a built-in background check. You will want to make sure that the person you want to meet knows why he or she is meeting you. Make sure your current contact is clear with his or her description of you and what you do.
Follow up after you get introduced to thank the person for his or her time. Another way to make yourself memorable is to send a gift — something thoughtful that was clearly chosen with the recipient in mind.
# Be engaged and engaging
One effective way to get your name and brand in front of influencers is to blog for other sites. You can find relevant blogs to your industry on sites like Technorati. Instead of going straight for the top blogs in your field, consider reaching out to some smaller blogs first. When you have some pieces published on the smaller blogs you can then take those to the larger sites as examples of your work.
When you are seen as someone who actively communicates with new connections it can make other online users want to connect with you. By starting small, you can connect key influencers in your field, because creating content consistently and being involved in forums in your field can alert other influencers that you are committed to your ideas and products.
# Use LinkedIn and Twitter to establish contact
Using social media can often be the fastest and easiest way to connect with online influencers because they are already established platforms for connecting with like-minded individuals. LinkedIn can be a useful place to start as it is the largest online network of professionals.
Twitter can be especially useful because the “verified” status feature lets others know that an influencer — typically celebrities or top industry performers — does indeed have a real following. You can use sites like Twello and Klout to identify the reach and following of users.
You can try tweeting your target an invitation to connect. Or you could try quoting the person in a blog post of your own, and tweet at them to let them know that you’ve quoted them in your article. A little ego stroking can go a long way.
# Don’t just say ‘hi.’ Offer to interview the person
Over social media, don’t just reach out and introduce yourself. Go a step further by offering to interview the person — either over email or treat him or her to a dinner. This can be framed as an interview that you want to post on your blog or simply an opportunity for you to pick the person’s brain. Successful people often enjoy telling their story.
The benefit to you? You’ll most likely take away at least one tip for success in your chosen field and have the opportunity to explain what it is you do. And there are multiple benefits for the influencer by way of additional exposure and potential access to new business partners.
# Figure out what you can offer and then offer to do it for free
When you connect with an online influencer, you will need to know what value it is that you are bringing. This could be something as simple as your time, your graphic design skills or your talent for short sales. You should offer to donate your time and skills for free. When you offer enough value and deliver a good product to an influential person you create an opportunity for that person to recommend you to his or her network.
Implement the strategies above to connect with influencers and you should see the number of successful people in your network grow. With so many available resources to you on the internet and otherwise, you may as well use them for something useful your own success.
As the old saying goes, “It’s now what you know but who you know.” For entrepreneurs, this couldn’t be truer. Building relationships can play a pivotal role in the success of your startup, as it can lead to important introductions to investors, potential clients, future hires and advisors.
But it isn’t easy. Relationships need trust and rapport, which requires consistent contact over time. For those looking to nurture and build valued connections, here are some tips:
# Be helpful. In a professional setting, people like to have relationships with those that can help their career or business. Be that person. It will help both your network and you get stronger.
Offer relevant and mutually beneficial introductions. Provide advice, expertise or feedback. Share information such as events, articles or research that may be helpful. Promote your contact’s work by sharing it with others.
Per the law of reciprocity, when you are helpful to others, people will feel more inclined to be helpful to you.
# Be visible. Make it easy for people to see you and know what you’re doing online.
Maintain a strong online presence on relevant social network sites like LinkedIn or Twitter. Also, publish a blog to publicly promote your expertise and provide updates on your learnings and achievements to your network.
# Keep people posted. Send updates about what you’re learning and accomplishing and ask your contacts to do the same. By doing so, you can determine who in your network is inspiring and excellent in respective fields, which can lead to connections down the road.
# Stay top of mind. You don’t want to go extended periods of time without being on someone’s radar. Ask people to join you for coffee or invite them to an event you’re attending or organizing.
Because people tend to be busy, make sure you always have a reason to meet. If you don’t, you can still stay in touch remotely. Ask a quick question over email. People will feel complimented that you’re viewing them as an expert and will be happy to provide advice.
You can also communicate with people on social networks or comment on their blogs. I keep a spreadsheet of my high priority contacts with a column that lists the date of our most recent communication. I also use email-reminder service Followup.cc to reconnect.