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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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How to make a smoother entrance into any room or conversation

Sometimes, the more understated you are, the more positively you'll be received.

MELANIE KATZMAN: Have you ever stood at the edge of the ocean and watched how the waves come in and come out. There's a rhythm. And if you enter the ocean at the right time, you catch the wave, you bob up and down in the water and it's a fabulous experience. If you miss the rhythm you can get knocked over. That happens at work, as well. People will enter a room and somehow think that if I dominate it, that's how I own the room. But that's wrong. You want to enter a room in a way that is respectful of the people that you are greeting and now connecting with. So take a minute, feel the situation, smile, look interested, pop your head over the cubicle or knock on the door and ask whether or not you can enter. People in power often think that they have the right to just barge in or just sit down at your desk and start talking. It could be very subtle, but it can be very destructive. So I encourage people to know how to enter, to ask for permission, to make a bit of small talk, to make eye contact, to see everybody, to learn the names of the people that are around you, to prepare in advance so that you know what you're walking into, and to often bring what I call conversational gifts to ready the interaction, to demonstrate your curiosity and your investment in a good outcome.

So conversational gifts are ways in which I'm going to help you be smarter or better informed as a result of the interaction with me. Are you somebody who I know in the context of being a banker. But on the other hand I've done a little research and I see that you like horses. Let me come in and tell you a little bit about something that I've just read, a book or an article that has to do with things that I have noticed are of interest to you. I had the good fortune of being part of a news show or a political debate and I've got insights into something that maybe you don't know about. I'm going to bring that because it's interesting. It's a funny fact, it's a great joke. Something that's going to smooth the opening when I meet somebody but also provide a gift to them so that they have something they didn't have before. Because I've scanned the universe, I've looked for things that might be helpful and interesting to somebody else.

One of the people who taught me a lot about how to enter is a professional clown. I would go on rounds with him in the hospital and I would watch as Wellington would knock on the door and ask for entry before he put his big clown foot into the room. And people lying in bed ill, unhappy would smile. They would be happy recipients of his visit. By contrast the doctors and nursing staff would just walk in, barging into what is somebody's private space even if it's a public hospital. And the feeling is one of incredible helplessness and disrespect. I'm just a lump laying in this bed versus I'm somebody who is respected enough to be asked about whether or not I am happy to have this visitor.

  • Knowing how to enter can make or break you, according to business psychologist and advisor Dr. Melanie Katzman.
  • You don't own the room or conversation by dominating it. Instead you're better off asking permission, acting respectful, and taking the time to consider what interests the person with whom you're interacting.
  • Who can you look to as an example? Somewhat surprisingly, professional clowns.




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