How to Make People Feel Important… Or Inferior

February 13, 2018

Hey, Bigwigs! I’d like to give you a bit of advice.

It’s about how to make the “little” people on your team – the ones who work the long hours without the big titles or bonuses – feel large. I’m talking about the individuals who want to know they are still making an important impact.

When you add up those small roles, they build the foundation on which your success rests.

(Which makes them kind of important, actually…)

If you get this wrong, you won’t make them feel important. You’ll make them feel inferior.

And that impacts how many hoops they are willing to jump through for you.

(My guess is you have a lot of hoops…)

This isn’t about what you say. It’s about what you do.

You can say all the right things. But if you don’t do this one thing right, it won’t matter what you say.

What is it?

Make eye contact.

That’s right. When you are talking to someone, demonstrate they have your attention. By, say, making eye contact.

Not scary, laser-focused-bore-into-your-skull eye contact. No, just enough eye contact to say, “I see you.

stare How to Make People Feel Important... Or Inferior

Eye contact says “I see you (you are important)”

What does this look like when you get it wrong?

Not long ago it was suggested to me that I get a moment of a Bigwig’s time. We were at a conference and I finally got the courage to approach him during a break and introduce myself.

He was perfectly cordial. And eloquent. And he was absolutely looking over my shoulder for the entire minute or two of our conversation.

At first it was merely distracting. What is he looking at? What’s behind me? The buffet? I resisted the urge to turn around to see.

And then I realized, as his eyes continued to dart around, that he wasn’t looking at any one thing. He was looking for some one.

He was looking for someone more important to talk to.

It was blatantly obvious.

And it really didn’t matter that he was saying he was pleased to meet me, that he had heard good things about me or that he believed the work I was doing was important.

Because he was giving me clues about my worth by looking for someone more worthy. Maybe Joe in Finance or Bob from Executive row.

You don’t need to make constant, freaky eye contact. But looking around for someone else while you’re in the middle of a conversation – without otherwise excusing your distracted behavior – is the surest way to make someone feel inferior.

A friend pointed out I should have been thankful that he wasn’t keeping eye contact at chest level, as a Bigwig once did to her. Following his eye-line, she tried to determine what had gotten his gander…. Oh, those…

perplexed stare How to Make People Feel Important... Or Inferior

Whatcha looking at?

Back to my focus. Which is about your focus.

If you want to make people feel important, treat them like they are the most important people in the room. Greet them kindly, express interest and keep your eyes from seeking out Joe in Finance or Bob from Executive row.

And if Joe or Bob find you a enough of a Bigwig, they’ll be on the lookout for you.

Valerie Gordon writes about career and life at  A long-time storyteller, she now teaches the principles of storytelling in her keynote presentations and group workshops. See what clients are saying.

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