How to Increase Your Likeability: The 10/5 Rule

Air India Maharajah illustrating the 10/5 Rule of Customer Service The 10/5 Rule, also known as the “Zone of Hospitality Rule,” is a well-known guiding principle for extending courtesy to customers in the hospitality, healthcare, retail, and other service industries. The rule instructs,

  • Whenever a staff member is within ten feet of a guest, the staff member must make eye contact and smile to greet the approaching guest.
  • When a staff member is within five feet of a guest, the staff member must also look the guest in the eye and acknowledge him/her with a salutation such as “Hello” or “Good Morning, Mrs. Smith.”

Many companies have adapted versions of the 10/5 Rule to improve friendliness, customer-service, and responsiveness. As I’ve written in a previous article, Walmart’s iconic founder Sam Walton instituted the ‘Ten-Foot Attitude’ and said, “… I want you to promise that whenever you come within 10 feet of a customer, you will look him in the eye, greet him, and ask him if you can help him.” At Disney theme parks, “cast members” are encouraged to make eye contact, smile, greet, and welcome each guest as part of Disney’s famous “Seven Service Guidelines.”

Courtesy is an Influence Technique

'How to Win Friends & Influence People' by Dale Carnegie (ISBN 0671027034) As expounded in Dale Carnegie’s classic self-help book How to Win Friends & Influence People, we are much more likely to feel warmly toward any person who sincerely makes us feel good about ourselves.

Likeable people not only succeed in their personal relationships, but also tend to be more successful at the workplace. Indeed, highly competent but unlikeable employees do not thrive as well as their moderately competent but more likeable peers.

Idea for Impact: Be courteous. Even simple acts of courtesy (making eye contact, smiling more, listening, showing sincere interest in others, for example) work as an influence technique because folks are much more likely to do things for—and accede to requests from—people they perceive as likeable.

Serve with a Big Smile

Service with a Big Smile

This research from Penn State suggests,

  • The bigger a service-employee’s smile, the happier a customer. This comports with other research that has shown that the powerful emotions triggered when someone smiles at you and you smile in return can change your brain chemistry. You not only feel more optimistic and motivated, but also tend to remember such happy occasions more vividly.
  • Genuineness of the service-employee enhanced the customer’s perceptions of friendliness, but only influenced customer satisfaction when tasks were well-performed and the customer’s major expectations of the product/service were met.
  • Appearing inauthentic and fake-smiling undermined the assumed benefits of “service with smile.” Customers can spot insincerity in a smile when they see one. Inauthentic, robotic, and feigned friendliness can be a turn off for customers.
  • Given that frontline service-employees represent a company to the public, mandating that employees must smile and appear friendly during their interactions with customers can backfire. The researchers suggest that companies hire happier employees and engender a work-environment that encourages genuine smiles and empowers employees to provide authentically pleasant customer service.

Genuine vs. Fake Smiles: The Science behind Your Smile

Genuine vs. Fake Smiles: The Science behind Your Smile

You can spot the difference between a genuine smile and a fake one. A genuine smile is also called the “Duchenne smile” after Duchenne de Boulogne (1806–1875,) a French neurologist who studied the association of facial expressions with the soul of humans.

  • Scientific research has shown that Duchenne smile involves the voluntary contraction of the zygomatic major (the muscle that raises the corners of the mouth) and the involuntary contraction of the orbicularis oculi (the muscle that raises the cheeks and produces crow’s feet around the eyes.)
  • In contrast, a fake smile involves the contraction of just the zygomatic major since the orbicularis oculi cannot be voluntarily contracted. A fake perfunctory smile is nothing but a manifestation of obligatory courtesy and politeness rather than one of inner joy.

Further, scientists believe that the two types of smiles are actually controlled by two distinct parts of the brain: the Duchenne smile is controlled by the limbic system (the emotional center of the brain) whereas the fake smile is controlled by the motor cortex.

Idea for Impact: Serve with a Big, Genuine Smile

  • Fake Smiles A genuine smile is an index of your happiness. Put in a little more delight into your smile. Reach out to others and give a little more of yourself by serving with a bigger smile.
  • Don’t smile excessively. Although people like smiles but are rather distrustful of excessive smiling. Unless the source of your cheerfulness is genuine and noticeable, people will judge that your undue smiling is feigned—or that you’re smiling distastefully at some deficiency on their part.
  • Engage your eyes for genuine smiles. If you’re forcing yourself to smile, you may be able to organize your lips and teeth into a smile, but you’ll not be able to get your eyes to coordinate.
  • Try to smile even when you are feeling cranky or grouchy. A simple smile can relax your facial muscles and short-circuit your bad mood.

Finding Potential Problems & Risk Analysis: A Case Study on ‘The Three Faces of Eve’

The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Risk Analysis is a Forerunner to Risk Reduction

My previous article stressed the importance of problem finding as an intellectual skill and as a definitive forerunner to any creative process. In this article, I will draw attention to another facet of problem finding: thinking through potential problems.

Sometimes people are unaware of the harmful, unintended side effects of their actions. They fail to realize that a current state of affairs may lead to problems later on. Their actions and decisions could result in outcomes that are different from those planned. Risk analysis reduces the chance of non-optimal results.

The Three Contracts of Eve

'The 3 Faces of Eve' by Corbett H. Thigpen and Hervey M. Cleckley (ISBN 0445081376) A particularly instructive example of finding potential problems and mitigating risk concerns the Hollywood classic The Three Faces of Eve (1957). This psychological drama features the true story of Chris Sizemore who suffered from dissociative identity disorder (also called multiple personality disorder.) Based on The Three Faces of Eve by her psychiatrists Corbett Thigpen and Hervey Cleckley, the movie portrays Sizemore’s three personalities, which manifest in three characters: Eve White, Eve Black, and Jane.

Before filming started on The Three Faces of Eve, the legal department of the 20th Century Fox studio insisted that Sizemore sign three separate contracts—one for each of her personalities—to cover the studio from any possible legal action. For that reason, Sizemore was asked to evoke “Eve White,” “Eve Black,” and “Jane,” and then sign an agreement while manifesting each of these respective personalities. According to Aubrey Solomon’s The Films of 20th Century-Fox and her commentary on the movie’s DVD, the three signatures on the three contracts were all different because they were a product of three distinct personalities that Sizemore had invoked because of her multiple personality disorder.

Idea for Impact: Risk analysis and risk reduction should be one of the primary goals of any intellectual process.

Postscript Notes

  • I recommend the movie The Three Faces of Eve for its captivating glimpse into the mind of a person afflicted with dissociative identity disorder. Actress Joanne Woodward won the 1958 Academy Award (Oscar) for best actress for her portrayal of the three Eves.
  • The automotive, aerospace, and other engineering disciplines use a formal risk analysis procedure called “failure mode and effects analysis” (FEMA.) FEMA examines the key risk factors that may fail a project, system, design, or process, the potential effects of those failures, and the seriousness of these effects.

Richard Feynman: Eccentric Genius and the “Adventures of a Curious Character” [What I’ve Been Reading]

This year, I’ve been reading many biographies of the great physicist Richard Feynman (1918–1988.)

A Nobel laureate, Feynman’s scientific curiosity knew no bounds. His academic life, acuity, life-philosophy, and ability to communicate science are inspirational to anyone pursuing his/her own life’s fulfillment.

In addition to his many scientific achievements, Feynman was known for his playfulness, varied interests and hobbies, and—perhaps most notably—his many eccentricities.

  • 'Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!' by Richard Feynman, Ralph Leighton (ISBN 0393316041) In a divorce complaint, Feynman’s second wife Mary Louise Bell complained, “He begins working calculus problems in his head as soon as he awakens. He did calculus while driving in his car, while sitting in the living room, and while lying in bed at night.”
  • Feynman had the reputation of being a ladies’ man and offers many seduction techniques in his memoirs. His bestselling biography “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” devotes many pages to the art of picking up girls in Las Vegas.
  • In “Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman”, biographer James Gleick recalls Feynman’s tenure at Cornell: “There were entanglements with women: Feynman pursued them and dropped them, or tried to, with increasingly public frustration—so it seemed even to undergraduates, who knew him as the least professorial of professors, likely to be found beating a rhythm on a dormitory bench or lying supine and greasy beneath his Oldsmobile. He had never settled into any house or apartment. One year he lived as faculty guest in a student residence. Often he would stay nights or weeks with married friends until these arrangements became sexually volatile.”
  • 'Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman' by James Gleick (ISBN 0679747044) While a Professor at Caltech, Feynman would frequent a topless bar for a quiet office away from office. There, he used to work on scientific problems by sketching or writing physics equations on paper placemats and napkins. When local authorities shut down the topless bar, most patrons refused to testify in favor of the bar fearing that their families would learn about their visits. But not Feynman: he testified in favor of the bar by stating it was a public need frequented by craftsmen, technicians, engineers, common workers, and “a physics professor.”
  • When physicist Ernico Fermi died in 1954, the University of Chicago offered an astronomical salary (“a tremendous amount of money, three or four times what I was making”) to entice Feynman to back-fill Fermi’s position. Feynman responded, “After reading the salary, I’ve decided that I must refuse. The reason I have to refuse a salary like that is I would be able to do what I’ve always wanted to do—get a wonderful mistress, put her up in an apartment, buy her nice things…With the salary you have offered, I could actually do that, and I know what would happen to me. I’d worry about her, what she’s doing; I’d get into arguments when I come home, and so on. All this bother would make me uncomfortable and unhappy. I wouldn’t be able to do physics well, and it would be a big mess! What I’ve always wanted to do would be bad for me, so I’ve decided that I can’t accept your offer.”

Richard Feynman with a Princess of Denmark at the 1965 Nobel Banquet

  • When conferred a Nobel Prize in 1965, Feynman sat at a table with a Princess of Denmark at the Nobel Banquet. During their small talk, Feynman introduced himself as the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics. The Princess remarked, “Oh. Well, nobody knows anything about that, so I guess we can’t talk about it.” Feynman was long-winded when he retorted, “On the contrary, it’s because somebody knows something about it that we can’t talk about physics. It’s the things that nobody knows anything about that we can discuss. We can talk about the weather; we can talk about social problems; we can talk about psychology; we can talk about international finance–gold transfers we can’t talk about, because those are understood–so it’s the subject that nobody knows anything about that we can all talk about!” Feynman later remembered that the Princess was flustered with his reply and recalled, “There’s a way of forming ice on the surface of the face, and she did it!”

For many more humorous anecdotes about Richard Feynman and the “Adventures of a Curious Character,” I recommend his extremely entertaining biographies:

Don’t be Rude to Receptionists and Support Staff

One of the quickest ways to fail in an interview is to ignore, be discourteous, or be disrespectful to receptionists and support staff.

Some job candidates believe that they do not need to be at their best behavior in front of support staff, and then “turn it on” for the professionals who will actually interview them.

Rude to Receptionists and Support Staff It is a common fallacy to assume that the relative position of a person on the corporate ladder is predicative of how much influence that person has in the organization. Rank, experience, and influence do not always correspond. People with influence are those whose opinions are important — not necessarily because they rank high on the org chart, but because they have acknowledged expertise, experience, or because of their association with people of authority.

Job candidates: a condescending attitude could cost you a job offer. Be courteous around everyone you meet and watch what you say. Assume that every person — the receptionists, assistants, and support staff — may have an input into the hiring decision. They will convey their negative perceptions to the hiring managers.

Want to be more likeable? Improve your customer service? Adopt Sam Walton’s “Ten-Foot Rule”


Walton Ten-Foot Rule

Sam Walton, Founder of Wal-Mart Stores Sam Walton, Walmart’s iconic founder and perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of his generation, demonstrated considerable charisma, ambition, and drive from a very young age.

Sam was a committed student leader when he attended the University of Missouri, Columbia. One of the secrets to his reputation in college was that he would greet and speak to everybody he came across on campus. If he knew them, he was sure to address them by their name. In a short time, he had made many friends and was well-liked. Small wonder, then, that Sam triumphed in nearly all the student elections he entered.

From his bestselling autobiography, “Made in America”:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I had decided I wanted to be president of the university student body. I learned early on that one of the secrets to campus leadership was the simplest thing of all: speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they speak to you. I did that in college. I did it when I carried my papers. I would always look ahead and speak to the person coming toward me. If I knew them, I would call them by name, but even if I didn’t I would still speak to them. Before long, I probably knew more students than anybody in the university, and they recognized me and considered me their friend. I ran for every office that came along. l was elected president of the senior men’s honor society, QEBH, an officer in my fraternity, and president of the senior class. I was captain and president of Scabbard and Blade, the elite military organization of ROTC.

When Walmart became sizeable enough, Sam realized that it could not offer prices lower than those of other retail giants—yet. As part of his customer service strategy, he institutionalized the very trait that had made him popular when he was a student. He insisted on the “Walton Ten-Foot Rule.” According to the rule, when Walmart associates (as Walmart calls its employees) came within ten feet of customers, they were to smile, make eye contact, greet the customer, and offer assistance. As Walmart grew, Sam added greeters who would greet customers at the door (and control “shrinkage” / shoplifting.) Even today, the Ten-Foot Rule is a part of the Walmart culture.

Likeability: A Predictor of Success

Likeability for success in life Likeability is an important predictor to success in life. Some people seem naturally endowed with appealing personalities. They tend to complement their talents by being personable and graceful, presenting themselves well, and by possessing the appropriate social skills for every occasion. They often win others over effortlessly. At school and in college, they are their teachers’ favorites and are chosen by their peers to represent their classes. They are invited to the right kind of parties and gatherings, and infuse them with life. At work, they are persuasive; they get noticed and quickly climb the corporate ladder.

From my observations of the traits of the talented and successful, I offer you a few reminders to help you become more personable, develop rapport, and thus maximize your chance of success:

How to Overcome Shyness in Initiating Conversations

How to Overcome Shyness in Initiating Conversations

Uneasiness in Striking up Conversations

The introverts among us do not like being the center of attention and the life of parties. We prefer small get-togethers with a selected group of familiar friends. We have a tendency to shy away from interacting with new people.

We introverts are not very comfortable with small talk. We would rather choose meaningful conversations about a variety of topics that are closer to our hearts. Consequently, we are likely to find it difficult to strike up conversations in social gatherings, parties, and meetings.

Assuming Rapport

The Positivity Blog discusses a simple and effective technique to help initiate conversations. In essence, as opposed to initiating a conversation with uneasiness, act as if you are meeting one of your best friends. The resulting assurance will ease up the anxiety and help initiate and pursue a conversation with new people. In addition, the ensuing poise results in a more forthcoming body language.

I have adopted this technique to better myself in presentations and speeches, meeting new people at work and play, and overcome my own introversion to the extent that now people often label me as being talkative.

Pursuing Conversations for Introverted People

Pursuing Conversations

Here are a few more suggestions to help introverts get more comfortable in social gatherings.

  • Ask to be introduced. Ask your host or a fellow-attendee to introduce you to the other guests by citing common interests. This will help you connect with other guests over the topic of common interest and pursue a conversation more effortlessly.
  • Interact with other introverts. Surveys suggest that 60% of people tend to be introverts. You could identify like-minded folk through their shy body language, approach them, and introduce yourself to them.
  • Connect with extroverts. Extroverts like meeting people, enjoy interactions, and love introducing people to one another. Being around extroverts can help overcome some initial difficulty with starting conversations and engaging in small talk in unfamiliar social situations.
  • Learn and practice the art of small talk. Most people are enthusiastic about sharing their stories. Favorite sports, travel destinations, kids, opinions of celebrities, movies and other current events make great conversation starters. Steer away from conversations on social or economic status, health, faith, and other personal details. Watch for gestures of discomfort when you ask questions.

How to Make Eye Contact [Body Language]

Keeping Good Eye Contact: President John Kennedy (JFK) with Jackie Kennedy

Humanity is imparted on us by actions and language and by looks and glances. We start to comprehend humanity soon after birth in the eyes of our parents, our siblings, and other loved ones. The glances of their eyes have profound meanings—even the subtlest of glimpses could convey emotions of love and hostility, cheerfulness and anxiety, approval and disapproval. The glances elevate us from our insignificance and instinctively make us feel more significant. In “La vie commune. Essai d’anthropologie generale,” Bulgarian-French philosopher and essayist Tzvetan Todorov declares,

The child seeks its mother’s eyes not only so that she will come to feed and comfort him but because the very fact that she looks at him gives him an indispensable complement: it confirms his own existence … As if they recognized the importance of this moment – though such is not the case – parent and child can look at each other’s eyes for a long time. Such an action is totally exceptional in the case of adults, when looking at each other’s eyes for more than ten seconds can only signify one of two things: both partners are either going to fight or make love.

Eyes are the Mirror of the Soul

“The eyes are the mirror of the soul.”
– A Yiddish Proverb

Our eyes play a major role in our interpersonal communication. The eyes express our moods and reactions more overtly than does other body language. Largely, observant people can attempt to understand our attitudes through the nature of our eye contact, our facial expressions, and body language.

When we meet other people, we usually observe their eyes first. When we speak, we tend to look other’s eyes. In return, we expect our audience to look at our eyes and pay their undivided attention. Hence, making and keeping good eye contact with others is an important habit.

President John F. Kennedy’s Technique for Eye Contact

The Reader’s Digest guide ‘How to Write and Speak Better’ notes a technique used by President John F Kennedy.

When people look and listen they tend to focus on one eye rather than both. Kennedy, however, would look from eye to eye when he listened, softening the expression in his own eyes at the same time, and so giving the impression that he cared greatly about the speaker’s feelings.

Trick: Make a Mental Note of Their Eye Color

The ‘ Success Begins Today‘ blog cites a technique from Nicholas Boothman’s book, “How to Connect in Business in 90 Seconds”

Eye contact and smile … it’s a simple courtesy and leads to a relaxed conversation. If you tend to be a shy person, this may be somewhat difficult for you. You may tend to look down or away when greeting someone. This can break the conversation right away.

When you meet or greet someone for the first time, just make a mental note of their eye color. This simple technique is amazingly effective. If you are looking for their eye color you’ll automatically make eye contact for a second or two.

Keeping Eye Contact in Conversations

Keeping Eye Contact in Conversations

When people maintain eye contact during a conversation, others usually interpret the eye contact as a sign of interest, confidence, honesty, compassion, and sympathy depending on the nature of the conversation. Failure to maintain eye contact may be interpreted as signs of suppression of emotions or truth, distraction, disagreement, confusion, reticence or lack of interest. Further, when people react to blame or accusation or are provoked into defensiveness or aggressiveness, their eye contact increase considerably—often, their pupils dilate.

Individual Differences

Many people, due to innate shyness or cultural background, tend to evade or curtail eye contact. They do not realize that, even if they are sincere and confident, their lack of eye contact could inadvertently communicate insincerity and lack of self-assurance.

Cultural Differences

The amount of eye contact varies dramatically in different cultures. In Asian cultures, for instance, where formal social structures (age, experience, social status, etc.) exist, eye contact with somebody superior can be offending. In some parts of India, men and women do not keep eye contact with their in-laws, out of respect. In most cultures, a longer eye contact while interacting with the other gender may be read as a sign of intimacy and expression of interest.

Eye Contact - Gender Differences

Gender Differences in Eye Contact

  • Between men, prolonged eye contact may signal aggression or intent to dominate–especially so during acquaintance or if the men are not completely familiar with each other’s expectations. Although more contact is tolerable as a relationship grows, eye contact needs to be broken often.
  • Women tend to maintain better eye contact in conversations with other women–more so with friends and family than with strangers. Generally, women interpret eye contact as a sign of trust and compassion.
  • Prolonged eye contact, an intent-look in particular, between men and women may quickly be interpreted as a sign of intimate interest. In the absence of romantic interest, concentrated eye contact must be avoided.

Avoid Staring and Gazing into Somebody’s Eyes

Staring or gazing at other individuals is typically awkward, sometimes intimidating. Never overdo an eye contact. Break eye contact often.

Idea for Impact: Learn to Keep Eye Contact

People who keep good eye contact are usually seen as personable, self-assured and confident. In the context of cultural backgrounds of the people around you, consider what messages your eye contact and body language may be unconsciously communicating about you. A firm handshake and a smile at the onset of a meeting, and eye contact throughout your conversations can establish a good impression of you.

The Waiter Rule: A Window to Personality

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills - How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character

Window to An Individual’s Personality

This article in USA Today says that how one treats a waiter can predict a lot about the person’s character.

The article quotes Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson and Sara Lee CEO Brenda Barnes.

A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. Watch out for people who have a situational value system, who can turn the charm on and off depending on the status of the person they are interacting with. Be especially wary of those who are rude to people perceived to be in subordinate roles.

How executives treat waiters probably demonstrates how they treat their actual employees. Sitting in the chair of CEO makes me no better of a person than the forklift operator in our plant. If you treat the waiter, or a subordinate, like garbage, guess what? Are they going to give it their all? I don’t think so.

“The Waiter Rule”

'The Waiter Rule,' Interpersonal Skills -- How you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character We presume each person’s influence is a function of his/her rank or title. Consequently, we may fail to treat everybody as we wish to be treated.

All of us, especially the ones from the service and hospitality industries, have our favourite stories of people who treated us with dignity: perhaps a manager who remembers her employees’ kids’ names or a fellow-passenger who helped us handle luggage on a flight. We also have our tales of people being indifferent in various contexts: perhaps a new secretary who got yelled at for mistakes by an executive-on-fast-track.

Fundamentally, the ‘Waiter Rule’ indicates that how we treat seemingly insignificant people, whether on a date or a job interview, can provide pointers to our personality and priorities.

Call for Action

Contemplate the following:

  • 'The Waiter Rule:' how you treat a waiter can predict a lot about character, Consider your own experiences when you were touched by others–their thoughtfulness or consideration. How did you return their kindness? Additionally, think about circumstances when you felt disrespected or discouraged. How did you react?
  • Now, reflect on how you treat people: your loved ones, your staff and colleagues, ushers, store attendants, and the rest of the people you interact with everyday. Do you accept who they are and accommodate their concerns? Are you generous? Do you treat them as people or as a means to an end? How can you change?