3 Secrets to Making A Great First Impression

Perhaps you’ve heard the expression “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” How quickly do people form an opinion of you? Seconds? Minutes?
Not to scare everyone, but Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov conducted experiments that showed first impressions occur in 1/10th of a second and aren’t greatly altered by longer exposure to the person.
It isn’t fair, but many judgments are made on faces alone. Studies show that naturally attractive people get better outcomes in all forms of life. But what can you do if you’re not suitable to appear on the cover of Vogue or GQ?


Here are a few quick tips to have some control over what people decide about you:

1. Make a Great Appearance
Be sure how you look and dress fits the occasion. If you’re going for an interview or business meeting, make sure you’re well groomed and dress conservatively.
What does that mean?
• You bathed and brushed your teeth. No one appreciates bad breath or seeing someone with spinach caught between their front teeth.
• If you’re a man, you’ve shaved and neatly trimmed any beard/ moustache. Also don’t forget to check for pesky nose and ear hair, and that goes for women as well.
• Your hair is combed and you’ve used a mirror to check the back so there’s not a flat spot or something out of place. You don’t want to just look good from the front.
• The outfit you choose to wear is appropriate for the occasion. Like Oscar Wilde said, “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.” Of course, this doesn’t mean you should wear a tuxedo, prom dress or evening gown to a job interview or business meeting, but you see the point. If you’re not sure what to wear, search online for photos showing photos appropriate for your category of destination.
• Think about the culture of where you’re going to be. Is it okay to have tattoos showing or face jewelry? If not, do the best you can to minimize them.
• Check yourself in a full length mirror. Is everything as it should be? Is your tie askew or your skirt hanging a little to one side? Are your shoes scuffed or there’s a snag in your hose? Make sure to do a full inspection before departing.


2. Have Super Power Body Language
How you carry yourself adds to your first impression. You want to look relaxed and confident, but how do you do that if you’re a little nervous?
• On the trip there, listen to some songs that make you feel positive and upbeat.
• Take some deep breaths before going into the building or room. This sends oxygen to your brain and relaxes you. Count 4 beats in and 4 out. Repeat several times until you feel calmer.
• Get in a Power Pose with hands on your hips like Superman and feel the confidence. Of course, do this where people don’t see you unless you want to be recruited for the Avengers.
• Stand up straight. Put your weight on the balls of your feet and keep them shoulder-length apart. Square your shoulders and tuck in your stomach. Keep your earlobes in line with your shoulders and don’t forget to breathe.
• Make eye contact. If you don’t look at the person you’re addressing, you will come across as insecure. You don’t have to hold continued eye contact, but it’s important to look directly at another when you first meet.
• Have a firm handshake, NOT one that could crush a can of tomatoes and NOT one that’s like shaking a wet rag. Practice with friends until you get it right.
• SMILE! You don’t want to look hesitant or nervous, so smile like you would when you meet someone you know well. If you’re not sure, practice in the mirror until it feels natural.


3. Be a Good Communicator
Interviews and first meetings can be stressful, but there are some things you can do that will help you make a better impression.
• Do voice warm-ups at home or on the way there. The easiest way is to hum in a hot shower so the steam relaxes your vocal chords. Start at medium range and then go as low and high as you can. Scrunch up your face like a prune and then relax it with your tongue hanging out like a hound dog. Say the words “Bay-Be-Buy-Bo- Boom” 5 times quickly to get your tongue working. If you do this, your voice won’t sound thing or crack when you first speak.
• Research the people and/or company culture of your destination. It helps to have some background before a meeting and adds to your ability to make small talk.
• Ask questions about the people you’re meeting. If you’re in a limiting situation like an interview, it can be as simple as how their day has been. If you have more time expanded your questions to learn about the other person’s life, like where they’re from, what they like about working somewhere etc. People like to talk about themselves, and it shows you’re interested in them, making you appear more confident than being solely self-focused.
• Listen. Sometimes when we’re nervous, we don’t listen well. Be sure and pay close attention to the question, and ask that it be repeated, if needed. Answer what you’ve been asked. If someone is telling you a story, don’t look around the room or at other people. They will appreciate you more for giving them your undivided attention.


If you practice these tips, you won’t care how long you have to connect, because you’ve mastered making a positive first impression.

12 Quick Tips to Help You Feel Confident

None of us go through life with our confidence meter stuck on 100% all of the time. Why do we feel confident? Why don’t we? Improving our confidence takes self-reflection and practice.

I recently conducted a  workshop on improving self-confidence at the University of San Diego’s Women’s Center. I had about an hour to condense a broad topic into a crash course. In addition to a quick look at psychological studies of confidence issues based on gender, and providing a detailed handout for self-reflection, here are a few ideas I taught to help give your confidence a boost:

  1.  Visualization

Visualization is not about seeing yourself trying to succeed at some point in the future. It’s about using your imagination to picture and experience the desired results like they’ve already been accomplished.

Before doing something that requires confidence, go to a quiet place where you can meditate. Imagine yourself doing the actions required and the feeling of success. Visualize everything that’s going to happen; what you’re wearing, how it feels and how everything works well. To engage in full visualization, also do affirmations and move your body. By engaging everything, you can experience the whole event before it happens and be a success when it actually does.

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  1. Rewire your Brain

When you feel nervous, your body floods with adrenaline, making you feel jittery. Instead of telling yourself you feel nervous, say “Yay! My superpower is here!” Adrenaline has helped people lift cars off people who are trapped, it’s like magic. Say “I’m SO EXCITED!!”  instead of “I’m nervous.” The more you focus on thinking of nervousness as a good thing, your brain will begin to associate it with positive, not negative, feelings.

  1. Put together a “Change My Attitude” playlist

Think about songs that make you feel happy or motivated, then put together a playlist on your favorite music device. Hearing these songs will help you feel empowered.  If you’re in a funk or need to change the way you feel, listen to songs that uplift you. An example is American Author’s “Best Day of My Life.”


  1. Stop Caring About Other People’s Opinions and Comparing Yourself to Others

          Have an honest conversation with yourself about what makes you care about other people’s opinions. When you were a baby, you were happy and free. Then people’s opinions began to intrude. Your parents & relatives, friends, teachers etc. put labels on what they thought you were and were not.

How much have you let what other people think of you define who you are? Take time to identify and root out old labels that don’t apply to you, or ones you still need to conquer.

Also, don’t compare your life to other people’s lives, bodies, houses, families etc. Most times, we don’t know the difficulties people are going through because they don’t reveal their problems. Not many people get on Facebook or Twitter and say “I gained 50 pounds!” or “I’m crushed by a mountain of debt!”

Be happy with who you are and don’t reach for an “ideal” based on images sold by the media or on social media.


  1. Stay Present

          Learn to let go of the past and don’t worry about the future. Stay present. By being present, we connect with others. When we’re not on our iPhones, rehashing our failures or obsessing about the future, staying present in the moment can help minimize our fears.

  1. Likeability/Listening

What makes a person likeable? They’re present, they connect and they listen. Everyone wants to be noticed.  Ask people you meet, from your barista to your family, “How’s your day?” Ask  follow-up questions if they give you a quick “Fine.” Engage and find out more. There are lots of things to learn from other people. If you listen without judgment, people will learn to like and trust you, adding to your confidence.

  1. Gratitude

Instead of focusing on your problems and what you don’t have, take time to reflect on what you do have. When you believe and embrace that anything is possible, you come into vibration with a positive energy that helps you achieve your goals. Take  stock of what you have, not what you don’t.

     8. Never Stop Learning

          To have more confidence, it helps to know what you’re doing, and that’s where learning comes in. Even when you think you know what you’re doing, there’s more to learn.  If you don’t know an answer, don’t guess. Say “I’m going to find out!”  In this information age, it’s easy.

Knowledge gives you power. Facts give you power. When you’re able to say “I know that because…” and can give a concrete example or reference, it lends you more credibility and helps you feel confident.

  1. Perspective

          We have all reached a certain point in life by going through problems. When you face a challenge, think about what you’ve navigated before, how you succeeded and where this problem falls compared to others you’ve lived through.


  1. Use Positive Self-Talk and Affirmations

Don’t let the traitor in your brain talk about failure. When you hear negative talk, visualize trapping the traitor in a closet, bound and gagged!   Watch what you think/say. Instead of “I’m trying to lose weight,” say “I’m losing weight.”

A common phrase people say to themselves is “I can’t”. When you say to yourself “I can’t,”  you are creating a barrier. This will prevent you from achieving a task you could otherwise succeed at.   If you would like to be successful, you need to start saying “I can” a lot more.  When you hear or say something negative, say “Delete, Delete, Delete. ”

  1. Confront Your Fears

Ask yourself what you are afraid of. Then ask, “What is the worst that can happen?” Go through each step of the process and see if you can change your attitude. By breaking things into small steps, they will seem much more manageable. Every journey begins with one step. Don’t let fear stop you from going on what could be a fantastic journey.

  1. Use Body Language and Presence Awareness to Project Confidence

            Before you go into a situation that requires you to feel confidence, do what Ted Talk presenter and Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy has suggested– strike a power pose: Put your hands on  your hips like Wonder Woman, above your head like you just won a race or other power positions that helps you feel more confident. Do some deep breathing to calm yourself and, if giving a talk, do some voice warm-ups so your voice doesn’t sound shallow or crack. Enter the room with good energy, project confidence and you will look like you’re ready to take on the world.

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        You can do it!  Take these tips, apply them and give your confidence a quick boost.


WWBD- What Would Batman Do?

Do you remember when you were little and people would ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

When I was 5 years old someone asked me that question and there was only one answer.



Watching cartoons, I’d learned about Batman. He’s the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, an American billionaire who witnessed the murder of his parents as a child and swore revenge on criminals. His vengeance is tempered with the great ideal of justice.

I was captivated. Being the Caped Crusader fighting crime was the perfect job….and he had a butler.

Nearing Halloween my mom asked me who I wanted to be.

I planted my feet, put my hands on my hips and said “I want to be Batman!”

“Don’t you mean Batgirl?” She asked, buying into gender roles.

“NO, Mom. I want to be Batman.”

She wasn’t happy. She looked like she had a row of pins clasped in between her lips.

She’d always wanted a little girl to dress up and have tea parties. Instead, she got a girl who wanted to be a superhero and, not just any superhero, a male superhero.

But I stayed true to my Batman self.  I begged until I got the costume for Halloween.

I patrolled the neighborhood to keep it safe…for a year.

I endured a lot of teasing from other kids:

Where’s your bat cave?

Where’s your bat mobile?

Aren’t you a girl?

I learned something about life. Being Batman was hard.

After awhile, I didn’t wear my costume around anymore, but inside I still wanted to be like my superhero.

In 4th grade, I joined the band program to learn to play an instrument.

I wanted to play the trombone, but my parents couldn’t afford one. My dad handed me a beat up instrument case. “Here. You’re playing this,” he said. It was a trumpet.

When I arrived at band class, I sat with all the other kids who played the trumpet.

They were all boys.

The band teacher looked at me, sitting in the row with all those boys, and said “You need to play the bells.”

He took me over and gave me this big silver instrument you tap at with little wooden hammers. “Girls play the bells,” he said.


Plink- Plank- PLUNK.

This was really boring!  I didn’t like playing the bells at all.

Then, I thought “What would Batman do?”


At the end of class, I told my music teacher “I’m playing my trumpet and that’s how it is.”

And I did from then on, earning 1st chair — the best player position–my sophomore year of high school, beating a senior boy.  Actually, the whole trumpet section was still all boys.


After law school, I became a prosecutor at age 24. I was now involved in the real justice system.

But I also looked like something straight out of Legally Blonde.  I had Farrah Fawcett blonde hair wore short skirts and 4 inch heels.  When I walked to court one day, I heard someone say “She isn’t that smart.”


After awhile, I convinced myself I should dye my hair darker so I would be taken more seriously. To maximize my IQ, I went all the way and dyed it black. People instantly thought I was smart.

But it wasn’t me.

I thought “WWBD?” Would he change his life to conform to what other people think he should be? No.

So I dyed it back and I won plenty of cases being Legally Blonde.

It doesn’t matter what people think of you.
Be your own superhero

Because in the end, the most important thing to be in life is yourself.

Unless you can be Batman. Always be Batman.

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          When it comes to making an impression in a speech, one of the most important things to remember is that people don’t care about facts.

What? That can’t be right! You might be thinking.

Here’s an example: I recently heard a speech by a businessman who owns his own company. He told us about how he started it and detailed all the services it provided, giving us all the facts and figures. Did I care? No.


It was BORING.

          If you want to capture the attention of your audience, don’t put them to sleep with facts. Here are some tips on how to keep people interested and, most important, awake.


          Once upon a time…

          I am an invisible man…

          This is the saddest story I have ever heard…

These are considered some of the best opening lines of books. Why? Because they capture the imagination. People are wired to hear stories. It goes back to sitting around in the evening, before radio, TV, the Internet and Netflix, when entertainment was storytelling.

Use stories to tell your facts.

Compare this: “More than one in three women are married before the age of 15 worldwide.” to:

“Sonali Khatun was just 14 years old when her parents told her she would be getting married. She dropped out of school. Her wedding was arranged in just 14 days.
“She did not want to [get married], but we forced her, because in villages, when an adolescent girl is unmarried, people start to talk,” Matiura Bibi, Khatun’s mother, told the American Jewish World Service, an advocacy group. “After the marriage, we realized the boy was not nice. He was suspicious of Sonali. He started to control her and argue with her. I understood the marriage wouldn’t last.” Sonali got a divorce and faced being taunted by the girls of the village, but she is now an independent, successful working woman.”  Read more here:


By telling facts through a story, it gives the audience someone or something to visualize and identify with. By using stories that include facts, your speech will resonate with the audience, causing it to be remembered.


Now that it’s election time, we see candidates who are distorting the truth for the purposes of furthering their campaigns.

Here are some examples:

Arab Americans cheered during the Sept. 11th attacks.” – Donald Trump (untrue)

Then United States is going to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees” – Carly Fiorina (untrue)

Hispanic and teen unemployment went up under President Obama.” – Ted Cruz (untrue)

The handling of secret emails through a private server was permitted” – Hillary Clinton (untrue)

          “Climate Change is directly related to the growth of terrorism” – Bernie Sanders (overstating)

Studies have shown that misinformation has lingering effects, even if a falsehood is quickly corrected. This is especially true if the “fact” ties in with a person’s beliefs and resonates with them.


We’ve all seen items going around the Internet claiming to be “facts.” A famous one from 2014 was a woman who claimed to have three breasts. She circulated a photo claiming she’d had a 3rd breast implant in the center. In actuality, it was a prosthesis. However, this “fact” did lead to her recording a song and music video in Florida.

Why have the three-breasted woman and the not-candid candidates captured the imagination? The things being said aren’t true, but they evoked emotion. If you listener feels an emotional reaction, what’s being said will resonate more strongly with them.


          Let’s go back to politics. A master of media attention is Donald Trump. He says things that are outrageous and has been discourteous to other candidates during debates. What has this done? It’s put a lot of focus on him because the media likes sensational stories– and so do we.

When Darren LaCroix won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, he walked out on the stage– and fell down. He stayed down for a purposefully long time, making the audience uncomfortable.

This was a masterful move. An audience views new information from the “reptile” brain, the part that processes information through a prism of fear and boredom. They’re afraid of new ideas, but they want to have their imagination captured. What Darren LaCroix did was shocking and, thus, excited the audience. It got everyone’s attention.  


          Think about your speech content and how to incorporate an unexpected moment into the presentation. It will keep your audience’s attention and make your presentation memorable.




          Know-It-Alls, Bullies, Whiners, Gossips, Angry Aggressors, Passives…

          We’ve all come across toxic people, in both our work and personal lives. But what do you do when you’re stuck dealing with one for more than a prolonged encounter?

During a recent seminar I taught on how to read body language, an attendee had a question. It began with him describing how a co-worker sat with one hand behind his head and what that meant. This was easy to decipher. The guy was practically yelling “I’m superior to everyone!”

Businessman sitting in chair, hands behind head, smiling, portrait, cut out

But the attendee’s concern didn’t stop there. He wanted to know how to deal with this self-important co-worker, a guy who thought he knew everything, but didn’t. The man’s ignorance was impacting their projects negatively and he wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.

In many of the classes I’ve taught, no matter the subject, someone usually has a question about how to get around a person who has become the bane of their existence.

If you have someone plaguing your life, here are some thoughts on how to overcome the problem.

  1. Don’t Escalate the Situation

          Many times, toxic people can be neutralized without a fight. In the case of the arrogant and ignorant worker described above, I told the attendee to first try a non-confrontational approach. In Tai Chi, a Chinese martial art, a key principle is to yield to an oncoming attack by redirecting the incoming energy rather than meeting it with an opposing force.

Here, I suggested the attendee/manager try letting his subordinate save face by saying “I’m sure you already know this, but…” and filling the guy in on his missing knowledge. Hopefully, by phrasing this in an agreeable way, the co-worker would finish his part of the project and feel kindly toward my attendee for helping him.

Often, people who are arrogant and angry are insecure, or they might have too much to handle in life. Try to look past the bluster and see if you can find a kind way to handle the problem before moving on to a more aggressive solution.


  1. See If You’re Contributing to the Problem

          Many of the people who ask about how to neutralize a difficult person don’t want to. They’re not sure of themselves or don’t want to “cause problems” by saying anything. If this sounds like you, you have two choices: Act or Suffer in Silence.

There’s also a flip side of that, of course. When confronted, some people get angry and the situation becomes a shouting match or devolves into a physical confrontation.

Imagine you’re in a room with a number of colleagues and another co-worker approaches and begins to berate you loudly about the things you do wrong.  No matter if what’s being said is true or untrue, what do you do?


          A good way to stop someone from continuing their diatribe is to remove them from the vicinity.  First, ask them to step outside the room. This takes the person away from their audience and has them comply with something you’ve asked, changing the “power” structure.  If it seems like they won’t go, you can gesture to the door and walk away. They will probably follow. Once outside the room, step closer to them, within 6-8 inches of their face, and hold eye contact. This move invades their personal space, showing by body language that you aren’t afraid. Keeping your voice quiet and calm, tell them you’ll be glad to discuss any issue they might have with you, but in a more private and civilized way.

This maneuver usually stops and de-escalates the situation. If it doesn’t, go with the next tactic.

  1. Don’t Engage the Devil

Although it’s tempting to argue or defend yourself, sometimes it’s best to walk away. Do a calm assessment of the situation. If you come to the conclusion that nothing you say will change the other person’s attitude, leave.

You might want to have it out, but if it doesn’t change anything, wasting your breath and time will have the same effect as saying the same things to a wall. Don’t bother. You can’t always control another person’s actions, but you can control your reactions.



5 Reasons Leaders Crash and Burn

Can you recall when a supervisor/manager/CEO in charge of a business, committee or project caused everything to derail?


Why does this happen?

  1. They Aren’t Natural Born Leaders

Leadership comes pre-loaded in some people. They’re the ones everyone turns to when a decision needs to be made. They step in and say “Here’s what we should do…” in a crisis. Of course, they can always be better leaders by learning more about how to be effective, but it’s in their DNA. If they don’t recognize they are natural born leaders, they might walk through life wondering “Why does everyone always want me to be in charge?” It’s simply been a fact of life for them.


For those who have had leadership bestowed upon them and don’t have a clue how to be a leader, it’s different. They have to learn how to do it. Many times, unfortunately, they don’t.

  1. They Want to Star in their Own Show

Some people who are given leadership roles merely want what comes with it: the corner office, the view, minions…


Their thoughts aren’t about what’s best for all; it’s about what’s best for them. Instead of doing work, they want to brag about their position and think about more important things, like their next vacation. They guard their position and never tell anyone what they’re thinking or why they’re doing what they’re doing. The words consensus, cooperation and connection remain in their dictionary under C and are not real life concepts for them.

More traits of self-interested leaders are bad tempers, anger, ingratitude, harassing employees, demeaning subordinates and more. It’s like working for a toddler no one has ever told NO.


  1. They Have Poor Communication Skills

Bad leaders don’t know how to communicate. Perhaps no one ever taught them or pointed out there was a problem, but many don’t care enough to think about it. Maybe they don’t collaborate with their staff because they think that they (and perhaps a few cronies) know better. Maybe they’re wedded to the status quo, scared of opposite opinions or are afraid of change.

Imagine there’s a decision that needs to be made that affects the entire company. An inadequate leader will make a unilateral decision then send out a memo stating there’s been a change with little or no explanation about the thought process or reasons behind it. If the leader had taken the time to consult the staff, maybe they’d learn that this change didn’t need to be implemented or there was a better way.


 Instead, those learning of the decision will raise their eyebrows, do some head-scratching or perhaps have a nuclear meltdown with shouts of “Why? echoing through the corridors.

  1. They Don’t Want to Do the Work to Inspire and Connect

Inspiring and connecting with people takes time and energy. Sitting in an office, tapping on a computer sending out emails about policy or what needs to be done is ineffective. A good leader will get up and go out to talk to people– and not just about business.

I had a good friend in hospice care at a convalescent home. I went to see him every day and got to know the nursing staff, the cafeteria workers and receptionists. I’d stop and ask how their day was, chat briefly about their vacation plans or other things. It never took much time. After awhile, people told me they wished I ran the place. Do I know anything about nursing homes? No. What these people wanted was someone who would listen and connect.

Their manager stayed in the office and never came out.


Sub-standard leaders don’t work on themselves or their relationships with others, then wonder why things aren’t going well.

  1. They Don’t Stay Focused on the Goal

When working to attain a goal, knowing what needs to be achieved and moving towards it sounds simple. To an ineffective leader, distractions, internal squabbling, indecision and more can keep a project from getting done. Because of all of the previous reasons listed above, they can’t get a group to work together and get things done.


In order to be a good leader, it takes good communication, consensus, connection and leading by example. A leader inspires others to do what needs to be done then stands back and gives them credit when the goal is achieved.


Be A Better Leader 

If you’ve recognized something you’ve done wrong in this blog post, congratulations! You can now make changes and learn to be better as a leader. Learning is a constant process and everyone makes mistakes. It’s a new day– get out there and lead!


Why My iTunes is Library is Like Life

Rock, Country, Alternative, Blues, Jazz, Dance, Electronic, Folk, Hip-Hop, Rap, Experimental, Industrial, Instrumental, Classics, Metal, New Age, Pop, Psychedelic, Soundtrack, Unclassified…

I love music and these are just a few of the categories listed in my iTunes library. I’m still old school enough to subscribe to Rolling Stone magazine and scour it for new artists and music whenever it arrives. This has led to a diverse collection and it isn’t the only place I check out music, so exciting new tunes regularly find a home with me.


When my sizeable library ate up the space on my computer, I transferred it all to an external hard drive. That was great, until the external eventually ran out of room and I bought a new external with more storage space. What came after that has been an ongoing, epic battle fraught with peril and leading to new problems.

My playlists are gone, my music folder isn’t named iTunes library anymore, there are duplicates galore, music is scattered all over my computer and external in various places. I’ve bought program after program to try to reign in the terror and get it all back under control, with little to no luck. The programs either freak out and stop working when they see the size of the problem or completely refuse to work and throw up an error box whenever I try to launch them.


What began as an enjoyable diversion morphed into a problem that, because I’d neglected it due to other things going on with my life, turned into a mega mess. It’s like The Little Prince and his discussion about the Baobab trees.

A baobab is something you will never, never be able to get rid of if you attend to it too late. It spreads over the entire planet. It bores clear through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small, and the baobabs are too many, they split it in pieces . . .


“It is a question of discipline,” the little prince said to me later on. “When you’ve finished your own toilet in the morning, then it is time to attend to the toilet of your planet, just so, with the greatest care. You must see to it that you pull up regularly all the baobabs, at the very first moment when they can be distinguished from the rosebushes which they resemble so closely in their earliest youth. It is very tedious work,” the little prince added, “but very easy.”

If I’d taken the time to figure out how to properly move my iTunes library to a second external hard drive, even though it might have taken some time to carefully read and understand how to do it, it also would’ve saved me the mess it is now. After spending way too much time on this issue, with little/no good results and fear I’ll completely lose my collection somewhere along the way, I see a trip to the Genius bar at the Apple store in my future. Or hiring a teenager who will get it all together in seconds.

From now on, I will try to stay on top of things and not let them get out of control. When I wake in the morning, I’ll say “Beware the Baobab Trees!” and deal with problems before they explode my little planet.



In the past week, I’ve had two people tell me that I have a rare quality: likeability.  One of these people proclaimed it loudly to others, delighting me, of course.

Some people are instantly likeable. They have an easy manner, a ready smile and their energy is attractive to others. It’s been shown that people who have this characteristic go far in life, from politicians to employees.


 The good news is it’s something you can learn.

You see, likeability isn’t something that came naturally to me. It’s a skill-set I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I began life painfully shy and introverted.  I also have a face that, when resting, looks like I’m contemplating the darkest problems of the world.  The Joker would definitely ask me “Why so serious?”


Being a former prosecutor hasn’t helped. My tone of voice can become so intense it occasionally sounds like I’m trying to convict the person I’m speaking with of some heinous crime.

Here are a few ideas on how to improve likeability:

1. Connect with Others

When you see someone, friend or stranger, smile at them. Ask them how their day is going, then don’t settle for the standard answer of “Good or Fine.” Ask some follow up questions. A friend recently told me about a study where participants spent five hours on a plane solely asking questions about their seat-mate’s lives.  Participants would always turn the conversation back to the person and never gave any information about themselves. After the trip, when asked what the seat-mate thought of the other person, they invariably said “They’re the most interesting person I ever met!” Even though they knew nothing about them.


Davy Rothbart, an author and filmmaker, told a story about how he and his dad would eat at a diner somewhere and, over the course of the meal, his dad would start asking their waiter about their life. Where are you from? What are your interests? What do you hope to one day become? His curiosity was so kind, genuine & gentle, it was never long before the server glanced around for the manager and sat down. By the time they left, his dad had a new friend. He wasn’t trying to promote anything or network. He just believed our lives are made richer when we can engage strangers and take time to connect meaningfully with people who cross our paths in everyday life. He always seemed to effortlessly, magically befriend people who crossed his path from waiters to a person in front of him in line at the grocery store to a ticket scalper outside a football game. Simply by asking questions about who they were and what made them tick. These encounters left both his dad and the people in brighter spirits.

2. Be Present

We all do it. Someone is talking to us and we’re thinking of what we’re going to say or other things.  We stop looking into that person’s eyes and giving them our undivided attention, our minds elsewhere.  We’re jonesing for our smartphone, which we haven’t touched for 2 seconds. There’s probably an email or text waiting for us. Or a move to make in Words with Friends.


Stop. Focus on the person in front of you and really, truly listen.

3. Care

Recently I saw a former colleague and noticed he wasn’t quite his usual happy-go-lucky self.  When he saw I genuinely cared to find out what was going on in his life, he disclosed that his  niece had been in a car accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. She’d require 24 hour care the rest of her life. When I saw him again a few weeks later, I made sure to ask after his niece.

We all have problems. We’re all wrapped up in getting through our days and figuring out our lives. The thing we have to remember: so is everyone else. Take time to notice.