A Thermostat Reading-Signals We Send

Question: Do your clients and staff feel comfortable or uncomfortable when they are with you?

Answer: Usually ____
                 Often ____
              Seldom ____

Does your attitude, voice, and mannerisms exude warmth? Or do they exude an ice-like feeling to others?

A key word that is hard to define--one that telegraphs to others that you are an open, willing to hear the other type of person--is the word "participation." You may think that the word participation isn't that hard to define in the dictionary sense. But it truly is a difficult definition when you try to convey the meaning and the feeling you get when you are "allowed into" or "brought into" a conversation, an exchange of ideas, or asked for an opinion.

The word participation signals to others that they are of value. They are significant, at least to us. The feeling of significance or the lack of the feeling of significance can make all the difference to a child and an adult. It can mean the difference between someone trying 110% or just giving the job or the task 50%--or just enough to get by.

A tiny minute detail, that you signal to others, is how you handle a client or a colleague, especially when they visit your offices. When someone walks into your office, do you stand up? Do you come around from behind your desk and shake their hand? Do you look them straight in the eye and make them feel glad they know you? Do you try to convey your feeling that you believe them to be important? These are signs of your participation in their world. And your acts of participating, signals to the other person they are important.

Stop a minute and think about someone you visited recently. It can be when you went to another office, or when you visited headquarters, or were out in the field. Think about an executive or client who sat at their desk, barely looked up, hardly said a word, and was colder than a dead cadaver (I know--a dead cadaver is doubly dead--and a live cadaver is impossible except if the other is a zombie).  Think about how that made you feel. Did you feel welcome? Did you feel--valued? Of course not. In fact, it may have shifted your entire mood.

Sure, I get it--you're not supposed to have your mood changed because of someone else; because you are not what the other person thinks. But you have to admit--if we are all being honest--that the difference between one person getting up and coming out from around their desk to greet you and the person who barely looks up to see you, who doesn't make the effort and continues to sit and stare at the email on their laptop--is the difference between warm sunshine and a dismal cold dank day.

So, if that's the case, what do you exude? What is your thermostat reading? Sure, everyone should be in charge of their own internal thermostat--but that outside pressure does affect people no matter how much Zen-lie detachment you practice. This is important--especially to those of you who are in management positions or those of you who want to be leaders--you telegraph to others how they should feel. And I clients and colleagues--all--want to feel that you appreciate them.

Naturally, there are times when you have work that needs to be done, and you can't be interrupted. And sure, there are times when you aren't "up." On these occasions, close the door or go home or g to the nearest coffee shop so you won't be interrupted, but more importantly, so you won't spread the contagion of negativity around your office and hurt your reputation.

Recognize that this one signal can make a marked difference in how others feel when they leave your office or your orbit. Ask a trusted colleague, friend or family member, does your orbit have a gravitational pull that others look forward to being in? Or does your orbit have a repelling effect--leaving others to make a left turn to the restrooms as they see you coming down the hall? Ask people, do they look forward to your conference calls or do they dread them?

We can create strong feelings in others. We can pull them into our orbit or we can repel them.


  1. Shifting out of your funk, into a positive, uplifting attitude can make all the difference in the world with your clients and colleagues. It takes mental agility to recognize that we send signals and that it is far better to send positive signals than it is to send negative signals. Acknowledge that you regularly value people or devalue people with the warmth or coldness you send.
  2. Review how you behave. Do you see how you can be sending the wrong impression? Make it a point to be warm, friendly, and inviting. Acknowledge your pessimism, aloof attitude and cold actions can be an initiative-killer and an attitude drainer for your staff, colleagues and clients. Resolve to stop, look up, and think about what you want to convey the next time you meet with a client or colleague. Do you want them to say to themselves, I want to meet with him or her again? Or do you want them to say, I am glad that meeting is over, and I am going to avoid meeting with him in the future? Decide now to get into the habit of looking at the signals you are sending and send a signal that conveys warmth.

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