Bernice Pink was a perfect example of a thought leader and a great friend of mine. She knew better than anyone I have ever met how to create a positive impact when meeting new people. Because she was so good at it, she also had more friends than anyone I have ever met.
Every night of the week, she was invited to some dinner or event.
On top of that, one Chicago mayor after another, several Illinois governors, and about every charitable organization in the city asked her to head a commission, join their board, or lead a particular project. From the time she arrived in Chicago in the 1950s until her death in 2016, she was a true city Thought Leader. Everyone knew and loved Bernice Pink.
So, how did she accomplish this? She had two secrets to her Thought Leadership success. They really are so easy to adopt, but unfortunately, all too many of us, myself included, fail to do so.
Treat every person as important.
Invariably after dining out at a restaurant, she would ask for a to-go box to take some food home. However, the food never made it home.
She would look for a homeless or street person and not only give them the food but stay and talk to them for a few minutes.
I have never seen anyone else do this. What happened next was even more startling.
The street person would invariably be so grateful that someone stopped talking to them, their face would brighten as if she had just made their day. If they saw her again, they would say, “Hi, Bernice.” They never forgot her. Once again, Bernice knew how to create positive impact, whether it was with a person living on the street or the state governor.
Compliment people frequently and sincerely.
More often than I could ever count, Bernice would meet a stranger and compliment them on their clothes or shoes or how they looked. After attending a performance, a lecture, or a presentation, she would go backstage to compliment the performer, ask the lecturer questions, or show her appreciation for the presentation. These people really appreciated that she took the time to show her gratitude.
These acts created a positive impact, and it paid off. People remembered her, and it raised her stature as one of the most influential Thought Leaders of her time in Chicago.
So, what other ways can we create a positive impact when first meeting people? According to Richard Weisman, a British professor of psychology, here are some steps we can take:
- Remember names, and more than that, repeat them in conversations. People love to hear their own names.
- Shake hands (when the day finally arrives that we can shake hands again) firmly. A firm handshake shows you are trying to make a connection with this new person.
- Use the handshake to say something flattering. No matter how many people may be at an event, you and the other person are the most important people in the room during the handshake. A flattering comment made during the handshake will be heard, remembered, and appreciated.
- Take care of your own appearance. Dress appropriately, stand up straight, and smile. Bernice used to say I became another person when I smiled and laughed. My writer and bookworm look went into the closet, and an outgoing, much more friendly, and open person came out.
- Use positive body language. This could be misinterpreted in today’s world, so use it only when you believe it will be appreciated and not misunderstood. Weisman suggests touching the other person on their upper hand or shoulder. Touch builds closeness and connection.
Finally, be genuine. Thought Leaders are authentic, real, and honest. That’s also how they became Thought Leaders in the first place.
More posts on thought leadership can be found here.
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