I am of the opinion that the United States is headed toward a major correction in terms of decorum. Similar to fashion, how we behave in the company of others, and what is deemed to be correct, polite, and proper is cyclical.
Political discourse is largely to blame for the daily displays of vitriol, and the smartphone likely is to blame as well. Nothing good can come from humans with their heads buried in their devices for the better part of each day.
A decade ago my focus was corporate etiquette. There was never a shortage of blue-chip firms who sought guidance to ensure their people had professional polish.
Business was brisk as we swooped in to make sure middle managers and young executives knew how to comport oneself at a cocktail reception, checking to see that forks were held properly, beverages were sipped with eyes downward, and bread is torn and consumed in small pieces.
Over the past four years and with displays of poor manners in abundance, the very same clientele has shifted their interest from lessons in etiquette to capital, or how to raise social capital.
Social capital draws a parallel to etiquette as both speak to rules, roles, and to an extent one’s status within a particular social group. To raise social capital it is a prerequisite that your demeanor, speech, and overall Presence speak to the level of influence and power you wield.
A more simple example may be to visualize the individual in your business or social life who garners the respect and admiration of others, and by virtue of their Presence, things get done and goals are achieved, easily and effortlessly.
Each interaction you have, be it in person, telephone, or online either increases or debits, if you will, from your social capital. Our goal is to have you fill your coffers on a continuous basis.
It is not uncommon for social capital to be confused or conflated with first impressions or executive presence. The first impression that we often talk about is really based on the information about our physical being that we’re providing for a person to come to that conclusion, while "social capital" assumes the foretold conclusion.
Picture yourself in a job interview. You’ve done everything right so far and you’re not aware the hiring manager already has a preferred candidate — they’re more or less going through the motions with you because company protocols state they must invite a specific number of candidates back for subsequent interviews.
Even though the hiring manager already knows who they want in the role, there is something about you that is an irresistible draw. You’re subconsciously checking all their boxes for criteria and skills, and on top of that, they’re having the best and most relaxed conversation with you, more so than any other candidate!
Your prowess and building social capital has caused that person to put the brakes on the search process, reflect on their character and biases, and seriously question whether the offer should go to you or the other candidate who you bested.
People with the most success and power tend to have really good communication skills and do well in business and social settings. It’s as simple as that. Increasing your capital is all about other people. It’s how you make people feel.
That reminds me of Maya Angelou’s quote:
“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.”
In a business setting, it’s absolutely crucial to read the room and get this right.
Do you come across as confident and trustworthy?
Do you take the lead in greetings and introductions, or do you wait for someone else to go first?
Do your honesty and forthrightness demonstrate humility and vulnerability?
Being proactive in both business and social situations helps to increase your capital, as does getting on the agenda for meetings, rather than being a lurker.
Raising Social Capital is an important aspect of daily interactions. In many respects Capital is Power, and you certainly don’t want to lose power, squander respect, or waste valuable time and energy and not see a net gain for your efforts.
With the strategies I shared today, you'll maximize your chances of forming connections that'll lead to the highest returns.
You can listen to an audio version of this post right HERE on The Soft Power Podcast