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The Big 3 (brand, business & leadership) Blog

Make a great impression; remember a name!

In his classic bestseller How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie says that their own name is the sweetest sound anyone can ever hear.

This is so true. Everyone lights up inside when someone remembers their name. (You feel, of course, remembered, but you also feel somehow significant to the other person, somehow special.) So the next time you meet someone in a social or business context, follow up your conversation by introducing him by name (instead of forgetting her name in a matter of seconds after being introduced, or—even worse—being so concerned with yourself that you never even take in their name in the first place).

Now if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re no good at remembering names, consider these techniques:

1. First, consciously listen. In first meetings, sometimes there’s so much going on that we don’t really pay attention. Slow down and focus. Of all the things to spend time on when you’re meeting someone, this is one investment that will yield great returns.

2. Next, make sure you heard their name correctly and repeat it for confirmation. This not only ensures that you get it right, it also helps you to remember it.

3. Then ask something about the spelling of their name (if unusual) or ask for a business card. When they give it to you, take time to study it. Repeat their name (again) by reading it out loud. The visual and sound will help you remember.

4. Finally, if an opportunity arises, introduce them to someone else.

By following these steps, you will remember their name, and the steps themselves will feel increasingly natural as you practice them.

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Take care of yourself through easy meditation

As lawyers we know that things tend to happen at breakneck pace, leading to occasional feelings of being under constant pressure. At these times it’s important that you take care of yourself so you can remain (relatively!) calm and in control. Most lawyers aren’t hugely familiar with tools like meditation, but the truth is, just as your body needs regular exercise to remain fit and healthy, so does your mind. If you already meditate, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. But if you, like me, find it hard to relax, sit still, or even temporarily shut your brain down, then you’re probably already protesting, “I don’t feel comfortable with that New Age stuff. Besides, it’s the fact that my brain’s always rushing around that gives me an edge!” Believe me, I know that feeling. But, like me, you also might just be wrong!

Consider the “fight-or-flight” response, as originally discovered by Harvard physiologist Walter Cannon. This is our body’s innate emergency reaction to danger, physically preparing us, like all animals, to react fast when threatened. It is triggered by the brain’s hypothalamus, which releases a surge of adrenalin and related hormones, which in turn increase heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure.

While most of us no longer require the fight-or-flight response for its original purpose sabertooth tigers not being too much of a threat these days, even in our profession!), we actually activate it more than ever—through stress. Most lawyers get tense on a daily basis: sitting in rush-hour traffic, fretting about missing a deadline, rehashing what was said in an argument . . . And each one of these moments—not exactly useful—can trigger the fight-or-flight response. Over time, frequent activation builds up stress hormones, which can result in health disorders.

Renowned Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, M.D., believes that the more frequently one activates the fight-or-flight response the more likely one is to develop high blood pressure. To counteract this, Dr. Benson has introduced the “relaxation response.” As the name implies, this is a state of relaxation in which the practitioner quiets the mind, causing a different part of the hypothalamus to release neutralizing chemicals. These chemicals trigger a decrease in heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, while boosting beneficial “Alpha” brain waves.

In his book The Relaxation Response, Dr. Benson acknowledges many techniques for its initiation (including meditation and yoga), suggesting that, whatever method we choose, we practice it for at least ten or fifteen minutes, once or twice a day. Although he refrains from prioritizing any single method, he does recommend two essential steps: repeating a word, sound, phrase, or muscle activity—such as deep breathing—and disregarding everyday thoughts as they come to mind.

Initiating the relaxation response doesn’t have to be complicated: just taking a walk or lying in a warm bath can work. Meditating can even be done in the midst of commotion—for example, on the underground while traveling to work—though this takes more practice.

I urge you: at least give it a try!

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Charisma. Develop yours!

Charisma. Some people just have it—like my friend Lynn. She’s always the center of attention, as people inevitably seem to gather around her. Lynn has the energy and enthusiasm that holds people’s attention, and when you’re around Lynn you just somehow naturally feel better about yourself.

People like Lynn tend to be better liked than their peers and (surprise!) also tend to be more successful. When Lynn recently left her big law firm to set up her own practice, most of her clients followed her without hesitation. And it wasn’t only due to her great legal skills, but also to the warmth of her character.

But don’t despair if you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Well, that’s definitely not me”…because charisma can be developed. Here are a few tips:

1. Be positive. Charismatic people tend to be positive. They are positive about themselves (they have self-belief), as well as the people around them (they believe in other’s abilities). When you appear positive, you come across as more self-assured and approachable, and this always draws people to you.

2. Be interested. Ironically, people who listen and ask questions are universally perceived as wonderful conversationalists. Rather than putting the spotlight on yourself, put it on the person you’re talking to.

3. Improve your communication skills. To exude charisma, you must be able to communicate warmth, enthusiasm, and interest. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, proactively seek out ways to cultivate it. Take a class to learn public speaking techniques, such as vocal variety and speaking rates. Learn how to use eye contact, facial expressions and gestures in order to enhance your presentations.

4. Be prepared. To communicate well, you need to have something to speak about—preferably, something that other people want to listen to! Keep informed and up-to-date with current events, exhibitions, music, sport—anything that might help you propel conversations forward.

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Interpersonal skills are more valuable than experience

When Right Management (a part of Manpower, one of the global leaders in recruitment) asked more than 800 senior human resource professionals and other business leaders throughout North America what contributes most to accelerated performance, the results were as follows:

  • Organizational culture/motivational fit 31%

  • Interpersonal behaviors 26%

  • Critical reasoning/judgment 21%

  • Technical skills 12%

  • Relevant experience 11%

In an era when law firms incessantly emphasize technical skills, credentials, and deal experience, you might think these statistics irrelevant, or at best, inaccurate—at least with regard to the law. But as lawyers, these statistics are right on the mark—your “people skills” will probably have more impact upon the success of your career than even your technical skills. So: what can you do to improve your ‘motivational fit and interpersonal behaviors’?

Read Juggling the Big 3 for Lawyers and find out.

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