Make an impact at your next meeting using social psychology
Are you looking for a job or trying to secure your next big deal? Employers often tell me the most important qualities they look for in potential employees are professionalism and the ability to work as part of a team. Often, I hear that the people who advance fastest are not the smartest or most hard working, but the most liked. What if told you there are a few things you can do to be more likeable?
First things first
Of course, actually being professional, a team player, and likeable is key. Once you’ve got that base covered there are a few techniques you can utilize to make your first meeting (and subsequent meetings) flow better.
We’re going to take a look at some social psychology techniques you can utilize to be more successful at your meeting. This is in addition to preparing for whatever meeting with the facts at hand. If you’re going for a job interview, look up potential interview questions. Find out who is on the committee, look those folks up on LinkedIn or Google. Try to find common ground; find a connection to utilize if you have the opportunity. Find out about the company. Have a comprehensive idea of what the company is about. Look up their mission statement. Right? Do your homework in addition to this stuff outlined below.
Social Psychology Techniques to Bring to Your Next Meeting
We’ve got the same wiring and it’s fast
We all have similar tools in our minds to make sense of the world. Tapping into how people determine the answers to important initial questions can give you an advantage when trying to persuade someone to hire you.
You have seven seconds before someone determines a variety of things
- Are you different
- Are you someone to approach or avoid
- Are you friend of foe
- Do you have status and authority
- Are you trustworthy, competent, likable, and confident
This rapid decision process, or as Malcom Gladwell calls it – thin slicing, allows us to sort out tremendous amounts of information hitting us every moment. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend his book on the topic Blink – The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. There is evidence that suggests that rapid decision process produces better decision making. With only seven seconds it pays to take a moment to be sure you’re collected prior to entering a meeting.
Before the meeting
Prime yourself to connect with people from the first handshake. To optimize your first encounter, you’ll have to do a bit of work prior to the meeting. Here are a few techniques that might help you. Before you walk in the door take a moment to get yourself prepared.
Prior to every important meeting, it’s helpful to determine what success looks (and smells) like.
Here’s an analogy: Someone gets into a taxi and the driver asks, “Where to?” The passenger says, “Don’t take me to the airport.” It sounds silly, but it’s often how we navigate our lives.
One tool you can use that might help is what’s called the Outcome Frame.
A well-formed Outcome Frame involves answering the following six questions. For the purposes of this exercise our goal is wanting to be more persuasive at our first meeting.
Answer these questions to form your own Outcome Frame
- What specifically do you want?
- How will you know when you’ve achieved what you want?
- Under what circumstances, where, when, and with whom, do you want to have this result?
- What stops you from having your desired outcome already?
- What resources will you need to help you create what you want?
- How are you going to get there—and what’s the first step to begin to achieve this result?
Just like your taxi ride, your fist meeting will go a bit smoother if you’re prepared with answers to these questions.
There are some key factors for success to developing a strong Outcome Frame. For one, the goal must be stated in positive terms, chosen by you, and within your control. It must be described in a sensory-specific way, and have a manageable size and scope.
Some helpful questions to ask yourself might be, “What will I see, hear, or feel when I’m feeling and being more persuasive?” Or, “What might other people notice if I were feeling persuasive?”
Next, consider what the outcome of the outcome will feel like.
Try success on. Give it a test drive. How do you feel?
The Circle of Excellence
Now that you know what you want and some keys to how to get there, another technique that might be helpful to you to find success at your meeting is the Circle of Excellence. This is a method of brining your most relaxed and successful self to your meeting…
Imagine for a moment the time in your life that you experienced success, a feeling of flow. When were you at the top of your game? What did that feel like? Imagine it. While you’re feeling those sensations of success, imagine a spotlight on the floor, something you could easily stand in and be completely illuminated. Change the color to your favorite color, make it sparkle if that’s your wish. Keep in mind your feelings of success. What sounds are associated with those feelings? Live it again. Once you have your feelings of success fully in your mind, step into the spotlight. This is your Circle of Excellence.
As your standing in your circle, consider your meeting or future event, take a moment to hear and feel what that meeting will be like. You can step into this circle at any time. This is now yours.
When you get to your meeting, step into it as you walk in the room.
The Circle of Excellence is a great way to bring your best self to the meeting. A related technique that may be very helpful is the idea of rehearsal.
There was a study on this topic that showed some pretty amazing results. Basketball players were separated into groups. One group spend an hour a day practicing free throws. Another group did not practice, and the third group imagined throwing free throws. The folks who did not practice showed no improvement. The players who practiced on the court had a performance increase of 24%. The players who only imagined practicing improved 23%! By imagining, or rehearsing in your mind, a task you can improve your ability almost as much as actually doing that thing. This is directly analogous to your performance in a meeting.
At the Meeting
Ok, now that you’ve done the work prior to the meeting, it’s show time. You’ve got your first seven seconds worked out prior to entering the room. You’re dressed appropriately, you’ve done your homework (you know about the company and the people you’re meeting with). You have rehearsed. You’re walking into your circle of excellence as you open the door and connect with the people in the room.
Embodied cognition is the idea that you can influence how you feel by changing your posture or facial expression. One might consider this related to cognitive dissonance (the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change). Generally, we don’t like it. We’ll do what it takes to confirm our beliefs. We can use this to influence how we feel. For example, if we’re smiling, the resistance to cognitive dissonance, influences our mind to be happy.
The Power Pose
It may sound silly, but there is evidence to suggest that by striking a power pose (this includes standing tall, sticking your chest out, having your hands on your hips, taking up more space than you normally do) convinces your mind that you are more powerful, which makes one more confident. Studies show that two minutes of a power pose is enough to significantly increase chemicals in the brain that increase your confidence. Being confident is key to making a good first impression.
Of course, this is something you’ll want to do just prior to your meeting. Striking a power pose, with your feet on someone’s desk and your arms stretched behind your head is not the sure way to land that job. Strike your pose out of view 2 minutes prior to entering the room. Or, if that’s not possible… imagine you’re striking a power pose.
Smile and be sincere
People tend to smile when their happy. Did you know when people (including you) smile it makes them happy. Sounds strange, but it’s true. It’s another facet of embodied cognition. The smiling triggers the brain to be in a better mood. When you’re in a good mood you’ll perform better.
Another great benefit of smiling is that it encourages other people to smile, making them happy too. Right off the bat you’re both happy. This is a good way to start an engagement.
One of the keys to showing your likability and ability to work in a team is to build rapport. Rapport is the idea that two or more people understand each other’s feelings and motivations. As much of our emotions are embodied in our body language, a technique to build rapport includes an idea called mirroring.
Successful mirroring includes subtly matching the other person’s body language, rate of speech, or breathing (among other things). Be very careful not to mimic the other person.
Some keys to successful mirroring
- Consider what’s happening with others around you. Set your intent to focus on being interested, not interesting.
- To signal that you are safe, use your body language and slightly extended eye contact to show that you’re open and interested.
- Pay particular attention to other people’s nonverbal communications and subtly mirror one or two of these behaviors by matching their posture, gestures, rate of speech, or tone of voice.
Match Representational Modalities
Another technique to build rapport is to identify a person’s representational modalities. A representational modality is how someone relates to the word. For example, someone might say, “I really feel what you’re saying.” In this case, they have a kinesthetic modality. Another example might be, “I really hear you.” In this case, they have an aural (or auditory) modality. Matching this modality in your speech, again subtly, can have an impact on the level of rapport you attain.
After the Meeting
You did it. You had your meeting. You went in prepared. How did it go? What was good? What could have gone better? How can you use this to improve your next meeting? Take some notes while the experience is still fresh in your mind. When you get back to your desk, take a moment to write a thank you note. Email is ok, but a handwritten note is as impactful as ever. Even if you don’t have any chance for this job, the fact that you took the time to show appreciation to another person will demonstrate your professionalism, ability to work in a team, and likability. That can help for the next time a job come up.
For further Reading