Two Simple Rules to Boost Your Interpersonal Success Rate Anywhere

*Originally published on LinkedIn July 3, 2019

Things move so fast these days it can often be hard to see the land mines everywhere when it comes to successful interpersonal dealings, much less properly navigate them at times in the corporate world. People can be quite fickle and quick to make big judgments about others based even on very short or limited direct interactions.

There are so many layers of behavioral bias around us all the time. Yet, most of us want to leave good impressions on the people we encounter day to day, and how well we are able to do so consistently is a critical ingredient in building a positive overall reputation.

Like it or not, there’s an infinite amount of social customs, pet peeves, and faux pas that are held as highly important across the various billions of personalities in the corporate world today. It’s not uncommon to encounter people whose support or distrust for us may hinge on a single act or omission that they associate with “good form” which is unbeknownst to us in the moment of opportunity we have to make an impression on them.

What’s worse, is that it’s often unlikely that people you encounter will give you feedback that is negative even in the form of constructive criticisms these days (e.g. ghosting), especially if they are not invested in you, because they simply don’t want to lose their time.

It is impossible to even know how to please everyone all the time and still show our true selves in every interpersonal encounter, much less to actually do it. However, I’ve learned two simple rules to live by which have been helpful throughout my life and are a sure fire way to up anyone’s odds of leaving a positive impression on everyone they might encounter in life, all the time, anywhere.

The Diamond Rule is Better Than Gold

First is “The Diamond Rule.” As far as I know, I made up the term the Diamond Rule. I call it that because it’s more valuable than the Golden Rule. It’s not about YOU. It’s not about treating others how YOU want to be treated.

YOU might feel great about how an interaction went with someone afterwards and be totally ignorant to the fact that the other person thinks you suck as a result of that same interaction. Thinking in terms of the Golden Rule is self-centric and, at it’s root, guides us to project our learned personal biases into our expectations of others’ perspectives.

If it is important to you to leave good impressions on and be effective communicating with diverse groups of people, or anyone really, it’s a good idea to keep your projections of bias in check as much as possible.

Therefore, the Diamond Rule is “treat others how THEY want to be treated.”

By definition, if someone is offended by something then, inherently, that something IS offensive. Whether it may be considered something reasonable or not is another story, but understanding these subtleties is important universally in interpersonal communications for upholding an ethos rich in respectful Consideration of Others (COO).

Upholding the Diamond Rule for high COO will lessen the likelihood you’ll be associated with POO (pissing off others). COO is way better than POO.

COO as a program can be part of a business’s organizational culture strategy, just as it was in the Army for me. When I was stationed in Korea I learned to bow, when I was in Germany I learned to say “Herr” and appreciate a new style of candor, and when I was in Iraq we’d hug it out with our cross cultural partners after eating together by hand as part of respectful custom.

Upholding the Diamond Rule is important in business and in life, and I’ve seen that prove true without exception throughout a huge spectrum of contexts and proofs of principle.

Treating others the way they want to be treated rather than how I like to be treated has definitely helped me avoid some unforeseen IED’s in social situations, professional situations, and, well, perhaps even literally too.

The good thing is the Diamond Rule is easy to follow. First, always seek to understand people’s expectations and perspective as much as you can. Then, treat people according to their custom and preference as much as is reasonable and practicable.

Only fail to practice the Diamond Rule in any moment with intention and having weighed the risk of unfortunate results.

Elevate the Customer Experience

I can’t go anywhere these days without hearing or seeing something that mentions “the customer experience.” Like an extension of the Diamond Rule, businesses have learned how powerfully impactful positive and negative customer impressions can be on their success, failure, and even their existence.

I think the odds are pretty good (at least 1 in 14, but likely #1) that Jeff Bezos would say he’s a billionaire thanks to his “customer obsession” if asked to explain the most singular key to his success.

It’s ironic that organizations are so keen on customer treatment deliberately these days yet that at the individual level many professionals haven’t learned how to correlate these organizational lessons learned as applicable to interpersonal behavior success as well.

What I’m getting at is rule #2: Everyone is Your Customer.

I suppose I’ve acted out this ideology in practice since I was about 20 or 21 years old, but only did so subconsciously. However, I learned to think of everyone as a customer explicitly as a fundamental and deliberate way of approaching interpersonal relationships after learning it from an accomplished former colleague and current friend of mine.

I encourage everyone to think (and act) in line with this philosophy as a helpful guide to upholding interpersonal respectfulness in a way that increases your ability to positively influence your impression on others and for fostering successful relationships across the spectrum of your personal and professional interactions.

Your boss? He or she is your customer in some facets. Clearly, customers are customers, but all stakeholders are customers in a way too. Other departments, peers, subordinates, vendors, etc, in a corporate environment if you treat all of these entities like your customer and provide them excellent customer service, growth of respect for you will most likely compound in most things, and its simply a winning philosophy.

Respect breeds trust. Trust powers growth and encourages others’ steadfastness of commitment.

It is not necessary to always call everyone “Sir” or “Ma’am,” like you might a customer, or to misrepresent who you are in material ways to the circumstance, but keeping this customer focused philosophy top of mind always can aid in honing your actions dealing with people in general to a set of behaviors that results in high satisfaction rates from those you encounter.

From holding the door for a stranger, to holding your tongue in anger, to holding a high regard for the value of time and attention you get from others which they could otherwise choose to spend elsewhere, and doing things like following though when you give your word, conducting yourself in life with others using typical customer service based behaviors is easy to do and tremendously fruitful for many forms of goodwill and lasting positive impressions.

You’ll have higher Net Promoter Scores with people if you treat them as a customer whose experience you value than if you did not.

In Closing

Regarding human interactions and impressions, Maya Angelou really summed it up best when she said:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”

If you want to boost your success in making everyone you might encounter feel positively about their interactions with you (and avoid being associated with POO), then treat them how they want to be treated as much as is practicably reasonable, and remember that everyone is your customer in some way when choosing your manners and actions of behavior.

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