3 Basic Gestures That Everyone Seems to Get Wrong

Source: iStock

Source: iStock

Unless you’re Mr. Congeniality, stepping into situations where you’re meeting new people is probably low on your list of desired activities, far behind grabbing a beer with your buddies or going on a date night with your significant other. But if you’re looking to move forward in your career, chances are you’re going to find yourself stepping into plenty of new jobs, networking events, and office parties where you only know a handful of people in the room.

You might think you’ve got a good handle on the basics of these interactions by now. You shake some hands, smile, and then leave, realizing you only remember one or two names. How did it become such a blur?

According to Keith Rollag, an associate professor at Babson College who teaches leadership and organizational behavior, many professionals don’t realize their full work potential because they fail to master basic get-to-know you skills. They don’t introduce themselves well, can’t remember names, and don’t know how to ask effective questions. It’s not so much that people don’t have the ability to greet others well or remember names, but rather they fall prey to old habits that don’t serve them well. “It is in fighting natural biases against social risk and changing lifelong habits. Real progress comes only through mindful reflection and practice,” Rollag wrote in a piece for Harvard Business Review.

You might feel uncomfortable and on edge the entire time you’re meeting someone new. But if you’ve managed to make the other person feel valued and appreciated, it won’t matter; you’ll have accomplished your goal. And if you remain committed to improving your skills, those anxious feelings will fade. Here’s how to master those three basic routines.