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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.

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

You already blew your new year’s resolutions, but it’s not your fault

(EDITORIAL) Your new year’s resolutions are already making you feel like a failure. The whole process is flawed – let me tell you why it’s not your fault (yet).

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It’s estimated that only about 8.0 percent of people keep their new year’s resolutions. Most fail by the end of January, and here we are – almost at the end of the month. But it’s not your fault (yet) – let’s discuss.

Face it, you’re doomed before you ever get started. It doesn’t matter what your goal is, if you don’t approach it the right way, you’ll never reach it. If you really want to change your life in 2019, you’re going to have to get serious.

Here’s my innovative approach. Stop making resolutions.

Making new year’s resolutions sounds good in theory. But they’re really problematic. New year’s resolutions often don’t take into account what is realistic. Resolutions don’t let you adjust when life gets in the way. You’re setting yourself up for failure when you make resolutions. You may have good intentions, but you know you’ll fall back into your old habits.

What’s the solution?

A resolution is defined as “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” Changing your behavior isn’t that easy. Psychology Today offers eight different reasons why it’s so difficult to make long-term sustained change.

The all-or-nothing thinking of resolutions traps you into a no-win situation.

To really make change, you’re going to have to approach it differently. Resolutions tend to come from negative emotions. Real change comes from place of self-edification. Resolutions tend to be sweeping changes. You determine to completely change your lifestyle. Small habits are easier to implement. Over time, those small changes can become big changes.

Setting goals is good. Breaking down your goals into bite-sized pieces helps you reach those goals. Want to lose weight? Instead of jumping in and throwing out all the sugar in your cupboards, work with a dietician for a month to see where you can make changes to your meals that fit your lifestyle.

Failure is a given.

Know that you’re going to mess up. Failure is part of the process. It helps you learn where to put your attention and energy. Coming home late and eating a pizza instead of something healthier isn’t a reason to stop trying to lose weight. It just means that you need to think about the reasons that caused you to blow your diet. Was it lack a planning? Did you just need comfort food? Was it just convenient? Look back at why you indulged to meet the challenge next time.

Give yourself a break.

Change isn’t easy. Don’t keep kicking yourself when you don’t hit your goals. Consider what’s keeping you back. Maybe the goals aren’t a priority right now. Maybe you’re taking on too much. Maybe the timing isn’t right. Maybe you have other commitments that need your resources.

Make 2019 your best year by not setting resolutions, but by making small changes in your life.

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Opinion Editorials

Do women that downplay their gender get ahead faster?

(OPINION) A new study about gender in the workplace is being perceived differently than we are viewing it – let’s discuss.

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The Harvard Business Review reports that women benefit professionally when they downplay their gender, as opposed to trying to focus on their “differences” as professional strength.

The article includes a lot of interesting concepts underneath its click-bait-y title. According to the study by Professors Ashley Martin and Katherine Phillips, women felt increasingly confident when they pivoted from focusing on highlighting potential differences in their perceived abilities based on their gender and instead gave their attention to cultivating qualities that are traditionally coded as male*.

Does this really mean that women need to “downplay” their gender? Does it really mean women who attempt this get ahead in this world faster?

I don’t think so.

The article seems to imply that “celebrating diversity” in workers is akin to giving femme-identified employees a hot pink briefcase – it actually calls attention to stereotyped behaviors. I would argue that this is not the case (and, for the record, rock a hot pink briefcase if you want to, that sounds pretty badass).

I believe that we should instead highlight the fact that this study shows the benefits that come when everyone expands preconceived notions of gender.

Dr. Martin and her interviewer touch on this when they discuss the difference between gender “awareness” and “blindness.” As Dr. Martin explains, “Gender blindness doesn’t mean that women should act more like men; it diminishes the idea that certain qualities are associated with men and women.”

It is the paradox of studies like this one that, in order to interrogate how noxious gendered beliefs are, researchers must create categories to place otherwise gender-neutral qualities and actions in, thus emphasizing the sort of stereotypes being investigated. Regardless, there is a silver lining here as said by Dr. Martin herself:

“[People] are not naturally better suited to different roles, and [people] aren’t better or worse at certain things.”

Regardless of a worker’s gender identity, they are capable of excelling at whatever their skills and talent help them to.

*Though the HBR article and study perpetuate a binary gender structure, for the purposes of our discussion in this article, I expand its “diversity” to include femme-identified individuals, nonbinary and trans workers, and anybody else that does not benefit from traditional notions of power that place cisgendered men at the top of the social totem pole.

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Opinion Editorials

Why I paused my career to raise our child

(OPINION) Our children are like tiny little sponges that absorb everything that we give them — your job and the sentiments it produces and evokes included.

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I never dreamed of being a stay-at-home-mom. Not in a million years did I think I’d find myself choosing to press pause on my career, but here I am, a mother for just nine months, doing just that.

HBR recently published an article about how our careers impact our children focusing on parental values and the emotional toll of our career involvement on our families. It got me thinking about my own childhood.

Growing up, my parents’ discussion of work was almost always negative. A job was something you had to do whether you liked it or not. As a child, I listened to my parents fight over money; I observed them in constant worry about the future. I watched them stress over unsatisfying jobs.

There was never any room for risk, no money to invest in a new career path, and no financial cushion to fall back on to give a new career time to grow.

Later, when choosing a path of my own, I would often wonder what my parents had wanted to be or who they could’ve been if they would’ve been able to choose careers they might’ve thrived in. All I ever knew is that my parents hated their jobs. While they’re on better financial footing now, the residue of their negativity persists in the career choices of their children.

While I was pregnant, I was working at an international tech startup in Silicon Valley. The company suffered from poor leadership; the week I was hired, my team quit and I was left to piece together a position for myself. The company continued to flounder, its culture unable to recover from interim toxic leadership.

I constantly worried about my son and the stress of a toxic culture on my pregnancy. Going into the office made me anxious. Leaving left me feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Instead of imagining a bright, beautiful baby boy, I closed my eyes and saw a dark and anxious bundle of nerves. Of course, I blamed myself for everything.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, I promised my baby that when he arrived, I would do things differently. This would be the last time I accepted a job that I only felt lukewarm about. Never again would I participate in a culture that could diminish my talents and self-worth. I’d seen this kind of thing during my childhood and I’d be damned to repeat it.

During my career, I’ve watched coworkers hire full time live-in nannies, missing their baby’s developmental milestones and their children’s school events. I listened as one CMO talked about moving into his backyard yurt when the pains of parenthood became too much for him. He left his three preteen sons alone to fend for themselves in the mansion they shared in Silicon Valley.

We pride ourselves on the amount of work we put into our careers, but we rarely measure our success through the eyes of our children.

Children are mimics, they absorb everything we do, even during infancy. So, what are we offering them when we abandon them to make conference calls from yurts? What message are we sending them when our eyes are glued to texts, emails and push notifications? What are we teaching them when we come home stressed out, energy depleted and our values compromised?

We try “disrupting” anything these days so what about the working parent model? Would it be worth it?

My husband and I decided that it was and we’re doing things differently.

My husband works in the service industry. He doesn’t leave for work until late in the afternoon which means he spends all day with our son. At nine months old, my son has a strong emotional relationship with his father.

I carve out time during my days and nights to schedule writing work. I’ve recently returned to freelancing and I find that when I’m working with clients I believe in and doing work that I enjoy, we’re all much happier.

Everyone who’s ever had children says the first year goes by incredibly quickly. It’s true. My career will be there next year and for years after that. My son is only a baby once and I wouldn’t miss it for all the money in the world.

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