Impression Building: Tactics for Managing How You Make People Feel

Your true personal brand is built in real life. People develop an impression of you based on the way you interact with others, the way you express yourself verbally, creatively and aesthetically, and the larger ideas with which you align yourself. It’s a popular misconception that personal branding is about appearances and self-promotion, when it’s really about intentional reputation building and curating the way that others perceive you.

One of my favorite quotes is by Maya Angelou, who says:

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

Have you ever thought about how you manage the way you make people feel?

Optics can be misleading. Sometimes, the person with a flawless image and online identity has some serious deficiencies when it comes to social literacy. We should remember that audiences will “like” content, but they’re loyal to people. So, I want to share a few self-assessment tactics that help me stay more in touch with how I make people feel than how I sell myself.

1. Be thoughtful about your body language

Watch yourself if you have a habit of checking your cell phone in meetings or zoning out when people speak at length. Folks notice. When you stay engaged, and your body language reflects that, people feel heard and valued. No one wants to feel like they’re fighting for your attention when you’re sharing space together.

2. Speak for yourself, speak what you know, or speak from a place of curiosity

This is a general rule of thumb that really drives the way I interact with others. Building a strong personal brand means thinking before you speak EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Before you contribute to a conversation, ask yourself if what you have to say will add value to the dialogue. Value takes on different forms. Are you sharing your personal experience to add perspective? Are you lending your (earned and proven) expertise to a topic? Are you posing questions that elevate the conversation? Sticking with this practice leaves the impression that you’re a thoughtful communicator as opposed to the type who talks for the sake of talking. Nobody really enjoys that person.

3. Be mindful of how you discuss other people

Do your best not to slip into making unsavory remarks about folks who are not in the room. There are ways to share your opinion about others, even if your opinion isn’t so flattering, without sounding like a trash talker. Don’t go into dark details, end with neutral remarks or constructive feedback, and, again, speak from your own experience only. When you maintain a standard of consideration and respect, no matter who you’re discussing, people are more inclined to trust you. Of course the old adage is a good one: if you have nothing nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all.