In the past ten years two of my friends had the pleasure of meeting Bill Clinton. One met him at a speaking function where he was part of a greeting line of probably 200 people. The other met him, by accident, on the wharf at Port Douglas in Queensland. On both occasions the meeting took less than two minutes; the impression that Bill Clinton made on my friends has lasted to this day.
But what did Bill Clinton do that was so special? Basically, for the short time they were in his company, he treated my friends as if they were the most important people in his world. He shook their hands strongly, leaned in to them, made direct eye contact and held it, and chatted like they were old friends. No rush, no pressure. Every part of his body communicated that he was listening, interested and engaged. He didn’t get distracted by the hundreds of other people that wanted to shake his hand and chat to him. He zoned them out. He didn’t care whether my friends were head of states or homeless people. What he was indirectly saying was that “you are important to me” and further “I am NOT important more than you.”
Wow – that is quite a skill! Put yourself in Bill Clinton’s shoes – could you do what he does in a receiving line with 500 or 1,000 guests. Can you imagine the level of concentration involved? Sure, he’s putting on a show but at the same time he is doing it for real. He wants to make an impression and give you a moment that you will remember for the rest of your life. My friends did.
However, consider what regularly happens at functions etc. You arrive in a great mood inspired to meet some cool and interesting people. Instead after a while you find yourself talking to someone who is only half-listening and is looking over your shoulder to see who else is in the room. They mumble the occasional comment and start checking their watch or are wondering where the drinks waiter is. Both of you would rather be somewhere else and are just waiting for an opportunity to move on. What a waste of an opportunity to connect?
Making people feel special and important is an uncommon trait. Anyone can do it, but it does take hard work, discipline and concentration. The key is to zone out all other distractions and lock into the other person. If it lasts for a minute or for several hours, make the connection memorable. Just remember to talk less (and listen more).
Try this little mental exercise to see how advanced your powers of concentration are – block out all thoughts and then count to 40 – if you can keep your mind blank without having new (distracting) thoughts entering your head for a count of 40, you’re on the way. If you can’t, keep practicing!
Good luck and have a great week!