Do You Wear a Halo or Horns?

What if the first impression you leave is far from angelic? If positivity is the halo effect, then the opposite impression must be the “horns effect.” Something about you is off-putting to someone else. And much like the halo effect, the horns effect can color your interactions with others.

Here is a quick way to overcome less-than-saintly impressions.

Be More like Ben Franklin

Known for many things, including astute observations of human behavior and practicing persuasion, Franklin in 1736 was chosen without opposition to be clerk of the Pennsylvania General Assembly. The next year, he again was chosen. But this time, a new Assembly member offered a long argument against Franklin and in support of another candidate. Franklin won out, but he found it disconcerting that the Assembly member — a person of influence — rallied so publicly against him. Franklin knew he needed to win him over but didn’t want to appear obsequious or servile in his approach.

So what did Ben do?

He eventually asked his adversary if he would be so kind as to lend him a rare book from his library. Franklin was renowned for his discerning taste in books, and his target proudly agreed to lend him the requested copy. Franklin showed his gratitude with a nice note later on, and the two men enjoyed a life-long positive relationship from that day on.

This episode is said to have inspired Franklin to coin this aphorism: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.”

Creating Your Halo

The clear takeaway here is to do everything you can to create a positive entry point with your persuasion target.

In the earliest stages of a professional relationship, you should dress well, behave in a friendly and approachable style, and be well-read, well-traveled and conversational. You must articulate your value and add important contributions to discussions. Make a favorable impression early, and you’ll dramatically improve the likelihood of hearing “yes” later.

What if you’re meeting for the first time an important target with whom you want to cultivate a positive and persuasive relationship? The savvy professional puts thought into not only how to make a positive impression, but also how to shape conversations. Consider the context of the meeting: Will it be a formalized business setting in a boardroom? Or will it be a more casual one-on-one exchange in an office? Conduct some research and explore similarities, interests and unusual aspects of the other person’s background. Be prepared to speak intelligently about the issue at hand, ask smart questions, and add a thought-provoking perspective. But don’t overdo it and feel the need to become an expert on every potential topic to be discussed.

The halo effect invokes the image of concentric circles on a body of water. As long as you can make one favorable impression with someone early on, you’ll build positivity in other areas of your business relationship.

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