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Theory
I first learned of the mimic/mirror theory when a client remarked to me that it made him uncomfortable that I dressed so nicely. Huh? I thought that was how I was supposed to dress. Aren’t I supposed to look professional? As a software engineer at a pre-IPO, he worked outrageous hours and was so proud to tell me, “I haven’t even had time to brush my teeth today.” His style of dress was strictly for the comfort of sitting in a chair at a monitor and keyboard for endless hours each day. His appearance could have caused this multi-millionaire to be mistaken for a homeless vagrant. Nothing he wore, drove or owned revealed that he was one of the wealthiest individuals in town – and one of the most humble and appreciative.

Practice
It was an easy adjustment. I love jeans and tennis shoes; he gave me an excuse to wear them. But my colleagues were confused. “Who’s that guy and why are you coming into the office dressed like that? Are you sure he can afford a house?” I was face-to-face with the new generation of home buyer.

I took this new awareness and melded it into my business practice. One of the first things I try to evaluate about a new client is their style; their style of dress, their style of speaking, their mannerisms. I understand the importance of being professional. I also understand that it can be perceived by some as a desire to appear to be superior. It visibly makes people more comfortable when they meet another who is like them. That’s how we become friends. We are similar in a variety of ways that connect us. Hobbies connect us. The type of car we drive connects us. Our similar professions connect us. Our mutual acquaintances and friendships connect us.

Build
An effective way to build rapport is to mirror, in a most respectful way, of course. It’s been suggested in materials I’ve read that in order to really take this to a higher level, you should mimic a particular accent. In my opinion, that tactic is a bit much. However, if you gradually move into their stance or pause for a moment and then sit back in your chair as they do, you will relate in new ways.

We are animals – at the top of the food chain – but still animals. We are ruled by our senses. Much is communicated without a word being said. I’m sure at some point you’ve been told, “Don’t look at me that way.” We are attracted or not by scent and sight. The tone of a voice can be appealing or annoying. Everything in your appearance, presentation and attitude, spoken or not, can impact the relationships we create. Why not initiate a positive response by acting compassionately and empathetically to clients by using your body and mind to walk in their shoes and to truly be present in the moment.

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As a lifelong resident and local Realtor, Vicki has established herself as a respected member of the San Mateo County real estate community. She’s known for her wit, sarcasm, and her personality that shows through in her posts. You can find her spouting off at Twitter, here at ag, and her personal blog, San Mateo Real Estate Blog.com.

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10 Comments

10 Comments

  1. Kevin Sharkey

    February 18, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Such a simple concept, yet deadly powerful. It seems we get so wrapped up in advanced tools and earth shattering theories that the basics are often forgotten.
    Thanks for keepin’ it real.

  2. Vicki Moore

    February 18, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    You betcha. Thanks for the the thanks. I have a good friend who keeps reminding me: high touch is as important as high tech.

  3. Norm Fisher

    February 18, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Interesting story. I have typically been a shirt and tie kind of guy but started “dressing down” a couple of years ago. You’ll often catch me in a pair of dress pants and a nice button down shirt with an open collar. Last year, I was sitting in my office with one of my best clients. Several transactions over the years and many referrals. She manages a kitchen at our tech college and spends her days in some kind of a uniform. We’ve always had great rapport, so she was completely comfortable telling me that she’d prefer to see her Realtor in a suit and tie. It surprised me coming from her.

  4. Vicki Moore

    February 18, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    Norm: That is interesting. So do you wear ties when you have appointments with her?

  5. Norm Fisher

    February 18, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    I do. In fact, I’ve worn a tie to work almost everyday since. 🙂 I’ll go more casual when showing homes to people I’ve already established a relationship with. I agree with the idea that you have to dress in manner which is most comfortable for your clients.

  6. Charleston real estate blog

    February 19, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Vicki, right on target. As to wardrobe, I think the Western and Southern US are a bit more casual, the Northeast and Midwest more traditional. Interestingly, I work with a lot of clients relocating from the Northeast and they are always dressed casually for a house hunt.

    Norm, I’m not sure how people dress in your neck of the woods other than to think a parka would be required attire 🙂

  7. Benjamin Bach

    February 19, 2008 at 10:36 am

    as a general rule, blue suits sell better. If all your clients are farmers…. this won’t be true for you

    I am a young, cool Gen Y Realtor, and almost all my clients show up in Jeans for first meetings, and to see properties. I don’t know if it matters that I deal with investors, but I find people expect their professionals to be… professionals. I’ve noticed a big difference when I initially meet people at my office, wearing a suit and tie – as opposed to going to see them at their home which is what I used to do.

    When I go see my lawyer, doctor & accountant, they’re (usually) in a tie, and we’re almost always in their office. I try to emulate that experience with my clients initally.

  8. Charleston real estate blog

    February 19, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Benjamin, my point exactly about the South, I’m seeing my accountant tomorrow (as opposed to Jay’s post that he was already planning on filing an extension) and my accountant’s attire will be strictly casual, not sloppy, but casual. It doesn’t make you any less professional. That’s why Vicki is dead on with her mirror observation.

  9. Vicki Moore

    February 20, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Within the same county where I work, there are two completely different expectations. On the Peninsula you must be dressed in business attire. On the coast, if you’re in business attire they know you’re not local. It’s a much more casual environment and you should be wearing jeans or be considered an outsider.

    The weather is a factor as well. Living on the coast, I need a sweater and boots. If I go over to the Peninsula dressed like that, it’s a real problem – it’s too warm! Then I look like an outsider there.

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Opinion Editorials

Dispelling the myth that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask

(EDITORIAL) It has been accepted as fact that women don’t get raises because they don’t ask as often as men, but new studies indicate that’s not true at all.

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Many of the seemingly universal “truths” of business often come down to assumptions made about workers based on their gender.

Among the most oft-repeated of these “truths” is that women and other femme-identifying people are bad at self-advocating, particularly in matters involving compensation.

These include: Women don’t negotiate their salaries. Women don’t get promotions or leadership positions because they don’t “lean in.” Women don’t ask for raises.

This last truth is finally being discussed as the myth it is.

Over at The Cut, Otegha Uwagba discusses her own experience successfully and not-so-successfully negotiating a raise, but more interestingly how increasingly research has shown that there is no “gap” in between the genders when it comes to asking. Rather, the disparity really arises when it comes to which ask is heard.

As Uwagba explains, “While men and women ask for pay raises at broadly similar rates, women are more likely to be refused or suffer blowback for daring to broach the topic.”

This blowback comes from the inability of some people in leadership positions to think critically about the ways in which business still actively dismisses women’s leadership qualities while simultaneously praising less-competent men who demonstrate these very characteristics.

The HBR article acts as good reminder that the cumulative effect of all of these misguided “facts” about women and business often perpetuate the toxic culture that creates and circulates them.

The implication of all of these myths creates a sense that women are the ones responsible for the unequal treatment they often receive. When the message that women receive is that the reason they don’t get a raise is that they didn’t ask—even when they DO—that tells them that their lived experience isn’t as valid as the pervasive “truth.”

This is, simply put, gaslighting.

Even more, telling women that women face challenges because they didn’t do something or know something, rather than the addressing the very real fact that professional women face sexism at almost every step of their career does not help them.

It only helps those already in positions of power blame women for their own archaic beliefs and actions.

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Opinion Editorials

Funny females are less likely to be promoted

(CAREER) Science says that the funnier a female, the less likely she is to be promoted. Uhh…

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Faceless keyboard warriors around the world have been — incorrectly — lamenting that women just aren’t funny for years now (remember the “Ghostbusters” remake backlash?).The good news is they are obviously wrong. The bad news? When women dare to reveal their comedic side in the workplace they are often perceived as “disruptive” while men are rewarded.

That’s right. Women not only have to worry about being constantly interrupted, receiving raises less frequently than men despite asking for them equally as often, and still making nearly $10,000 less than men each year, but now they have to worry about being too funny at the office.

A recent University of Arizona study asked more than 300 people to read the fictional resume of a clothing store manager with the gender-neutral name “Sam” and watch a video presentation featuring Sam. The videos came in four versions: a serious male speaker, a humorous male speaker, a serious female speaker and a humorous female speaker.

According to the researchers, “humorous males are ascribed higher status compared with nonhumorous males, while humorous females are ascribed lower status compared with nonhumorous females.” Translation: Male workers earn respect for being funny while their funny female coworkers are often seen in a more negative light.

There are, of course, several reasons this could be the case. The researchers behind this particular study pointed to the stereotype that women are more dedicated to their families than their work, and being perceived as humorous could convey the sense they don’t take their work as seriously as men.

Psychiatrist Prudy Gourguechon offered another take, putting the blame directly on Sam the clothing store manager, calling out their seemingly narcissistic behavior and how society’s tolerance for such behavior is “distinctly gender-based.” She says these biases go back to the social programming of our childhoods and the roles mothers and fathers tend to play in our upbringing.

So what are women supposed to do with this information?

Gourgechon’s status quo advice includes telling women to not stop being funny, but “to be aware of the the feelings and subjectivities of the people around you.” While recommending an empathetic stance isn’t necessarily bad advice, it still puts the onus on women to change their behavior, worry about what everyone else thinks and attempt to please everyone around them.

We already know that professional women can have an extremely hard time remaining true to themselves in the workplace — especially women in the tech industry — and authenticity is often a privilege saved for those who conform to the accepted culture. We obviously still have a long way to go before women stop being “punished” for being funny at work, but things seem to be progressing, however slowly.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama shared her thoughts last year on the improvements that have been made and the changes that still need to happen, including encouraging men to step up and do their part. In the wake of the #metoo movement, CNBC recommended five things men can do to support women at work. There are amazing women in STEM positions around the world we can all admire and shine a spotlight on.

All of these steps — both big and small — will continue to chip away at the gender inequality that permeates today’s workplaces. And perhaps one day in the near future, female clothing store manager Sam will be allowed to be just as funny as male clothing store manager Sam.

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Opinion Editorials

Two common business myths that could get you sued

(EDITORIAL) Two misconceptions in the business world can either make or break a small business.

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When you’re an entrepreneur with a small staff, you may be in the habit of running your team casually.

While there’s nothing wrong with creating a casual environment for your team (most people function better in a relaxed environment), it’s wise to pay close attention to certain legal details to make sure you’re covered.

It’s easy to misinterpret certain aspects of labor law since there is a lot of misinformation about what you can and cannot do inside of an employee-employer relationship. And since labor laws vary from state to state, it can be even more confusing.

As an entrepreneur, it might be strange to think of yourself as an employer. But when you’re the boss, there’s no way around it.

Here are two employment myths you might face as an entrepreneur along with the information you need to discern what’s actually true. Because these myths carry a lot of risk to your business, it’s important that you contact an attorney for advice.

1. Employees can waive their meal breaks without compensation

It’s a common assumption that any agreement in writing is an enforceable, legally binding contract, no matter what it contains. And for the most part, that’s true.

However, there are certain rights that cannot be signed away so easily.

For example, many states in the US have strict regulations around when and how employees can forfeit their unpaid meal breaks.

While meal breaks aren’t required at the Federal level, they are mandated at the state level and each state has different requirements that must be followed by employers. While some states allow employees to waive their meal breaks, on the other end of that the employer is usually required to compensate the employee.

For example, in California an employee can waive their 30-minute unpaid meal break only if they do so in writing and their scheduled shift is no more than 6 hours. In other words, when a shift is more than 6 hours, the meal break cannot be waived.

Additionally, when an employee waives their unpaid meal break, they must be paid for an on duty meal break and be compensated with an extra hour of pay for the day.

Vermont, on the other hand, provides no specific provisions for meal breaks and according to the Department of Labor, “Employees are to be given ’reasonable opportunities’ during work periods to eat and use toilet facilities in order to protect the health and hygiene of the employee.”

As you can see, some states have specific regulations while others have general rules that can be interpreted differently by each employer. It’s best not to make any assumptions and contact a labor law attorney to help you determine exactly what laws apply to you.

2. You own the copyright to all employee works

So you’ve hired both an employee and an independent contractor to design some graphics for your website. You might assume you automatically own the copyright to those graphics. After all, if you paid money, shouldn’t you own it?

While you may have paid a small fortune for your graphics, you may not be the legal copyright holder.

Employees vs. independent contractors:

When your employee creates a work (like graphic design) as part of their job, it’s automatically considered a “work made for hire,” which means you own the copyright. An independent contractor, however, is different.

While any legitimate work made for hire will give you the copyright, just because you created a work for hire agreement with your independent contractor doesn’t mean the work actually falls under the category of a work made for hire.

According to the Copyright Act (17 U.S.C. § 101) a work made for hire is defined as “a work specially ordered or commissioned for use as a contribution to a collective work, as a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, as a translation, as a supplementary work, as a compilation, as an instructional text, as a test, as answer material for a test, or as an atlas.”

This means that unless your graphic design work (or other work you paid for) meets these requirements, it’s not a work made for hire.

In order to obtain the copyright, you need to obtain a copyright transfer directly from the creator, even though you’ve already paid for the work.

The boundaries of intellectual property rights can be confusing. You can protect your business by playing it safe and not making any assumptions before consulting an attorney to help you discern the specific laws in your state.

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