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Posted on March 28th, 2011

Five Things People Don’t Do – That You Should

A continuation of the How To Be Taken Seriously Posts – This one focuses on doing simple things others seem to ignore.

Once upon a time, I helped Tony Bennett with some public relations work for a non-profit he was involved in. The one thing I remember more than anything else from my time with him was that he stood up when a woman got up from, or returned to the table. No matter what else happened, he was old school like that, and old school was remembered.

My longest relationship wasn’t even going to have a second date until I did two things – I asked about my date’s day, and I stood up when she went to to the bathroom.

Below, let’s discuss some of the little things you can do that make a big, big impression when they’re least expecting you to.

1) Pay attention. This is probably the simplest one to say, yet the hardest one to implement. Think about it – When was the last time you listened to someone talk and actually comprehended what they were saying, as opposed to waiting for a break so you could start to talk? The thing about a conversation is, it takes actual work. It’s so much easier to listen while nodding your head and checking your blackberry, or wondering what you’re going to do for dinner. But at the end of the day, that won’t help you. Listen to what someone says and make notes about key points. Asking about those key points later, or following up on them, separates you from the rest of the people we talk to on a daily basis.

2) Separate yourself from the pack. The pack is stupid. Accept that and be better than the pack. That means doing things like your mom (and Tony Bennett) taught you. Stand up when a woman approaches the table. (This obviously doesn’t go for women.) Someone older than you? Sir or ma’am never hurts. (Ma’am can be dangerous, lest a right hook for thinking she’s too old. Imagine doing it with a tip of a cowboy hat, if you wore a cowboy hat.) Be the person who makes the introductions. “Sam, have you met Michelle? Both of you are into gastrointestinal research.”  You’ve become at least, the connector, at best, the person who get to take the bow when Sam and Michelle get married.

3) Be the Go-to Guy or Gal. You have a purse or pockets? (Or an SeV?) Here’s what should be in it, at all times. Gum or mints. Two dollars worth of quarters. A safety pin and a paper clip. If you have the space, a small multi-tool with a corkscrew. Obviously, a pen and a small notebook. (Navy SEALs are required to have paper and pencil at all times) a few business cards (preferably not creased or stained) and finally, an emergency credit card. and a folded up $50 bill. True story: I was once on a plane and sitting next to a lovely young woman I’d met in-flight. When we got to the taxi-line, she found she’d lost her purse. Gone. We tried to go back to the gate, but no luck. The airline told her they’d look for it. I gave her a business card, and my lucky $50 for her to get home. She called me that night – the airline had found her purse, and did I want to be her guest at a benefit dinner the next night at the Wynn hotel? As I hung out with this lovely young lady, met Seal and a host of other celebrities to whom she introduced me as “the wonderful man who saved her at the airport,” I had a lovely, lovely time. I also made some great new friends, and several future clients. Oh – and she paid back the $50.

4) Keep a mirror-image bag at your office or place where you spend the most amount of time after your home. A mirror-image bag is simply as it sounds: A bag with enough necessities to get you through 48 hours of extended away time. A suit if you wear them, a freshly pressed shirt and pair of jeans if you don’t. Toothpaste, toothbrush, soap, underwear, socks, and – important – after shave or perfume. Check out Three Fluid Ounces to buy tons of small-sized mirror-image stuff. One of my favorite scenes in “True Lies” is where Arnold Schwarzenegger gets out of his wetsuit, dons a tuxedo, and has a small little compartment for cologne. You always want to be the person most put together in a situation where no one expects to have to be put together. This gets you remembered, not simply recalled.

5) Finally, know when to shut up. You see these people all the time in meetings. They talk to hear themselves talk. They have no good ideas, and no one wants to be around them when they start talking. They’re never invited to parties, and they rarely get promoted. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your reputation is simply shut up and listen. Plus, listening and not talking on occasion, makes you seem mysterious. People love people shrouded in mystery. It makes their lives more interesting by default.

Have fun, and if I’m missing anything that people rarely do but should, leave them below in the comments.

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  • User Gravatar
    Joann Perahia
    March 28th, 2011

    Peter you are terrific!! Your underlying tone is “Kill them with Kindness”, a statement my grandmother always told me and who came to this country with nothing and created a multi-million dollar business that has been passed down to generations. I have used that theory all my life and climbed many corporate ladders because of it.

    Here’s my suggestion to the M’am – say “Miss”, I am 55 look 45 and when I hear “Miss” I get so flattered…..M’am at this point I know I am one, but you are correct I hate it!!!!

    I have identical twin sons who are 16, are actors, maybe in your travels you saw them as the Russian Twins in the film “2012″ and I am printing out this blog and leaving it for them to read.

    thanks, love your blogs and HARO has gotten my words out and even my kids in People so thanks you are a good soul and I only wish nice things for you!!!

  • User Gravatar
    Sarah O’Keefe
    March 28th, 2011

    Lovely list, except ix-nay on the ologne-cay. Trust me on this…the people who like smelling cologne or perfume on others are VASTLY outnumbered by the people who hate it.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    Genuine compliments are great to give and receive. I happen to collect vintage jewelry and love all kinds of accessories. If I see a woman wearing something fabulous, I will always tell her so.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    I am old school and if time/situation allows, I send hand written thank yous. Sometimes the follow ups need to be much faster so email takes over, but anytime it’s appropriate, I send hand written.

  • User Gravatar
    Spiro Pappadopoulos
    March 28th, 2011

    Simple truths and simple advice, that we simply don’t follow often enough. Loved this concise explanation, I now have a few mini projects to start my week. Thanks.

  • User Gravatar
    Nancy Davis
    March 28th, 2011

    This really is such a great list. I would add writing a nice thank you note if someone has gone way above and beyond for you. It blows my mind to think how few thank you notes are sent and they really do not take that long to write. They really make a person truly stand out from the rest.

    The other thing is to as you mentioned really listen when someone is talking. There is no faster way to piss me off than to be talking to me while you are on your phone. Which are you doing, talking to me or playing with your phone? Please pick one.

    The world would really be a better place if more people did these very simple things. This post is certainly well needed.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    Great post- as always. My addition? Writing thank you notes. Makes such a big difference- I’m so surprised more people don’t do it. Email just doesn’t cut it in some instances.

  • User Gravatar
    Coach Colette Ellis
    March 28th, 2011

    Great tips, Peter. Also enjoyed your commentary on Friday at the EEX Entrepreneurs Summit.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    Peter…you forgot to mention the handwritten note…in an envelope…with a stamp…and placed in a mailbox!

  • User Gravatar
    Penny Miller
    March 28th, 2011

    Your points 1 and 5 and some of 2 can be summed up with, “be respectful.” But being respectful doesn’t mean letting people take advantage of you.

    Your listen and shut up are priceless. One of my favorite sayings, “25 words or less.”

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    I would add… make a conscious effort to make authentic compliments. Too many of us love to talk trash about everything from sports to politics, or clients to co-workers. It’s rare to hear a genuine (not smarmy) compliment. When someone summarizes well or clearly identifies a vital point in a meeting, tell them that’s what they did and thank them for that contribution. Find something good to say and be the one to say it. Moreover complimenting someone who isn’t even around to hear it still lifts the conversation, and will likely come back to the individual. How satisfying is it to hear third hand that your name was highlighted in a positive way?

    Thanks for sharing, and please keep it coming. I love when you say what I think (usually with better grammar 🙂 and when you make me re-think things.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    Loved this post – I have two things to add. Never underestimate the power of the words ‘thank you’, whether expressed in writing or in person. Always look behind you before you walk through a door, and if someone is behind you, hold it open for them and stand aside to let them enter first, regardless of their age or gender. This allows them to either enjoy the small courtesy, or to guesture to you to go first. Either way, the consideration is always appreciated.

  • User Gravatar
    Urkovia Andrews
    March 28th, 2011

    Great post. I have to agree with the previous comments in respect to handwritten thank you notes. That is always a nice touch. I would also add don’t just have a pen, but have at least two pens. As a female I am always asked if I have a pen, and rarely are they returned. I would also suggest one of those mini sewing kits. You know the ones that include–at minimum– a safety pen, one button, and a needle and thread. Those can be life-savers, if not for you, for someone else.

  • User Gravatar
    Paulette Beete
    March 28th, 2011

    Send handwritten thank you notes. Sure it’s easier to e-mail or Facebook, but the extra effort gets you remembered in a good way.

  • User Gravatar
    David Dylan
    March 28th, 2011

    A really simple one, but quite hard: in a second conversation, remember some key points from the first.

  • User Gravatar
    March 28th, 2011

    Please leave the fragrance out of the bag — and off your skin. Don’t be afraid to smell like your species, and more importantly, many of us are allergic to the stuff.

  • User Gravatar
    Michele C. Hollow
    March 28th, 2011

    Your mom raised you right. It may sound corny, but using good manners always makes a good impression.

  • User Gravatar
    Sherry Eckert
    March 28th, 2011

    I see hand written thank you included. I do this anytime I interview with someone or someone helps me out & I include a hand written thank you card in every jewelry purchase I receive from orders online. It makes things so personal in a time when people would rather text, tweet or post. I do all of those too for certain things but a hand written note is personal & thoughtful.. Also I would add smiling & saying please & thank you especially to wait staff, grocery checkers, anyone who does a service job.. Too many people treat them with little attention & sone with disdain.. A smile & please & thank you is polite, respectful, & shows class & manners.

  • User Gravatar
    Brandi Young
    March 28th, 2011

    Great post Peter. Two more to add…

    1.) Give up your seat to an elder or to anyone that could clearly benefit from having it more than you.

    2.) Let the child doing the “potty dance” use the bathroom before you. Not only will this relieve the child but the stress level of the accompanying parent as well.

  • User Gravatar
    Daniel Riveong
    March 28th, 2011

    Great List! I already follow much of the same myself: 1) Always have a few spare bills in wallet just in case; 2) Always have both personal and business cards; 3) Spare essentials at the office: toothpaste to cologne and even a pressed shirt; 4) Always a pen and paper on hand; 5) Make introductions to people at parties, more impressive when you do this at a party where you introduce two people you just met.

    I prefer address Miss instead of Madam, myself.

    I also always try to have a certain signature element at events when appropriate: 1) Old fashioned Parker Pens; 2) Always wearing a tie or a jacket. There’s been many occasion where people introduce themselves to me with: “Hi, I’ve seen you in events before. You’re the guy who always wears a tie. So what do you do” – which has opened doors to partnerships and business.


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@SethGodin said:

“Yes, you shouldn’t text while driving, or talk on the cell phone, or argue with your dog or drive blindfolded. It’s an idiot move, one that often leads to death (yours or someone else’s).

“I don’t think you should text while working, either. Or use social networking software of any kind for that matter. And you probably shouldn’t eat crunchy chips, either.”

I’ll add:

I get online several times a day to engage readers in social media. I may not reach the millions that Seth does, but I know that things happen because I stay in touch.

So my first gut reaction would be to think it’s just another rant from someone blessed with an old media audience… but after thinking about this one for a few minutes, I remembered how often I find myself thinking “I’ll just log in to send one tweet” and find myself engaged when it’s not my top priority.

So far, I’ve not found any limit to the value of engagement… I have found some limits to my ability to focus.

Seth is right. If your “work” does not include engaging customers.. do it without the browser open. In fact, turn off the phone, close the door, and FOCUS.

What do you do to get focused time for a project?


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What are you working on?

If someone asks you that, are you excited to tell them the answer?

I hope so. If not, you’re wasting away.

No matter what your job is, no matter where you work, there’s a way to create a project (on your own, on weekends if necessary), where the excitement is palpable, where something that might make a difference is right around the corner.

Hurry, go do that.

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Posted by Seth Godin on December 18, 2010 | Permalink

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