How Do You Make Others Feel?

Original Spanish version published in El Comercio newspaper (Peru) on December 10, 2016

Ernesto is sitting in front of me. He’s tense as he answers my questions. He knows that I am rigorously analyzing his presentation and his profile. It’s my job to make this hard for him: in a few days he has an interview for a position that’s a perfect fit, in fact his dream job.

I’m worried. His focus isn’t good enough. Like many people, he’s thinking more about making an impression with his experience, numbers, and results than about first establishing a trusting relationship with the interviewer. It’s like he’s talking to the wall, he’s not making any connection, just trying to show that he can do a really good job at the position in question. He’s so set in his role as an interviewee that he has completely forgotten his natural warmth and friendliness.

I have to help him come across as he really is. Get him to open up and be more authentic, to be natural. And to show his interest and passion for the job. How will they be able to tell whether he’ll fit in with their team if all he does is recite his lessons? How will they know who he really is if there’s no connection? I’m afraid that’s how it’s going to go, he’ll be just another face in the line and will have lost his dream.

Whether for a job interview, to win customers, or as leaders, to inspire the team, and of course in our personal relationships, most people lose sight of the central point of any human interaction: establishing a connection and generating a relationship of trust based on feeling comfortable with each other. Without that, everything said or presented, no matter how good it may be, goes unnoticed. It makes no impact, it doesn’t resonate, it’s lost.

What’s the key? Many researchers –like Amy Cuddy from Harvard University– are working on this subject, which is especially interesting to me and which I have been studying for years. And the answer is very simple: people like us based on how we make them feel.

It may sound strange, but in order to establish the trust and connection in any interaction, we first need to concentrate on giving the other person our attention, respect, acceptance, and approval. That translates into being open and natural, and, if the other person is someone close to us, caring. The more we make others feel good when they’re with us, thanks to this openness and warmth –and yes, even vulnerability– that we project, the better they will feel about themselves and, in the end, about us. There will be chemistry and connection.

Of course, being open and natural is not easy and requires self-confidence. Taking off the masks and stepping out of the roles that take away so much of our authenticity requires us to be personally and professionally sure of ourselves. We would do well to center our attention on being genuinely warm, on recognizing the other person, and on validating him or her.

It’s important to note that our facial expressions, gestures, and posture also send those valuable messages of positive feedback to others. They convey the respect we feel for the other person, so we must be sure that our body language is genuine and consistent in that respect.

Ernesto understood the concept and was able to change his attitude, connect, open up, be warmer, and be more natural. And he got his dream job. How about you? Do you know how you make others feel?

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The concerns, motivations, or problems of each team member, as well as the challenges and obstacles they face, affect everyone. Consequently, every leader should be aware of them.

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Being authentic requires showing yourself as you really are. It requires checking your ego at the door and not looking down on anyone. It requires courage and self-confidence, but also honesty and tact to “tell it like it is.”


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