I recognized you across the room…

Some years ago I was to bring a business associate to meet my boss at a bar.  The three of us were chatting away, and I was oblivious of other things/people in the room when a longtime acquaintance tapped me on the shoulder.  I greeted him and without really thinking about what I was saying I said, “How did you know I was here?”

“I recognized you across the room,” he said.

I never forgot that simple statement.


Because it was the first time I ever thought about the power of first impressions.

My friend went on to say that what he “recognized” was the way I stood.  Evidently I have a habitual way of standing with most of my weight on one leg and it gives me away.  I was quite unaware before that day and even now — perhaps 30 years later — I still “catch” myself standing with most of my weight on one leg.  I’m sure that doesn’t help my sciatica but hey, habits are hard to break!

The thing is, we all give off vibes — visual vibes, aural vibes, personality vibes, etc..  We are rarely aware of how we come across to others but if we think about how other people affect us I bet we can all agree that in an instant you know who has an attitude about life, who is generally pleasant, who is angry — they needn’t say a word, or even do anything overt — they just need to be.

I know folks who always seem to have trouble. But so often those are the same folks who give off vibes they aren’t aware of…  Or seem not to care.

For example, it’s amazing how much differently people treat you when you greet them with a smile and a heartfelt “hello.”  Not a hollow one — almost everyone can tell a sincere greeting from a phony greeting.

Attitude about what you expect from others shines through instantaneously.  It makes no matter that a person may be an employee — if you treat them as if the MUST serve you instead of inviting their assistance — sincerely — you’ll always get more pushback.

I dont think people realize that when you’re dealing with a registration clerk they actually have the power to put you in any room they want.  They’ll be a lot more likely to get you closer to the door, or on the right floor if you treat them with respect and dignity.  The same thing with waiters and waitresses, and pretty much any person in commerce.  How you address them will determine in large part how they will interact with you.

You may have seen the TV program The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan. It’s humorous that dog owners are so amazed that a stranger can change the behavior of their own dog just by behaving a little differently than they, the dog’s owner.  His tagline is “I rehabilitate dogs and I train people.”

The thing is, dog’s aren’t actually smarter than people.  Just because a dog can sense you energy down the leash and respond to you differently if you are tense or nervous or confident.  People do essentially the same things — except we don’t wear a leash.  And last I checked having someone “shush” us, as Cesar does with dogs to get their attention, doesn’t work very well with humans.  We just need a different set of tools to accomplish the same thing.

Of course the difference is that dogs live in the moment; people don’t.  You can correct a dog and each time you do the dog will be less likely to do the wrong thing (assuming you’re using the right set of tools).  With people, that’s not so simple. We tend not to live in the moment.  We remember slights.  We remember offenses.  The fact that some other clerk in some other store on another day treated us poorly carries forward to the clerk we meet today, in this store, regardless of how they treat us.  We make a lot of our own problems, don’t you think?

Our attitude may not be as easy to spot across a darkened room as the way I stand.  But never think that people don’t “see” our attitude, don’t hear our emotion, don’t react to the way we treat them.

Asking politely usually works better than demanding.

An honest smile is almost always better than a scowl.

Please and thank you aren’t banished from our vocabulary, sir and mam or miss are still polite forms of address with people you don’t know.

The thing is, it doesn’t cost anything to be nice.  And if you get in the habit you do it without thinking.

Some people like to make their own lives more difficult.  I get that.  They want attention. They feel they’ve been abused or put upon.  Ok.  If they only knew that they were more likely to be abused or put upon by behaving the way they do maybe they might change.  I have no expectation that will happen.  Life doesn’t have to be hard, but life is willing to let you make it harder for yourself.


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