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Pachter's Pointers:
Business Etiquette Tips & Career Suggestions


8.19.2014

The ‘Halo Effect’ – When Being Nice Has Benefits

I recently had this conversation with my son after he had his car serviced.

Mom, they did a great job on my car,” he told me.

I asked, “Why do you say that?” 

His reply: “As I was leaving, we talked about new cars and the mechanic told me to have a safe trip home.”    

I thought to myself that my son knows very little about the inner workings of cars, yet because the mechanic was nice and friendly to him, he believed that he had done a good job on his vehicle. 

He is not alone in how he judges the quality of someone’s work. 

A colleague recently decided to go with one software vendor over another because, as she said, “He was so friendly.”  

I call this phenomenon the “halo effect” of being nice.  One of my clients summed it up best when she said: The service you give people will affect their perception of the quality of your work.  (The term “halo effect” was first coined in 1920 by psychologist Edward Thorndike, who concluded that your impression of someone will influence your view of his or her abilities.)

But before you jump to any conclusions, I am not saying that the quality of your work doesn’t matter. It does. Being nice and friendly will not make up for inferior work. What it will do is encourage people to view you and your work positively. People will enjoy working with you or for you if you are nice to them.  And that is an advantage in everyone’s line of work. 

Here are four steps to follow so that others will react to you in a positive way:

1. Greet people. This is one of my more common tips, yet people still tell me all the time that they feel ignored by others. People believe that they greet others, but I encourage you to monitor yourself over the next couple of weeks and really make sure that you do. You need to say “Hello,” “Hi,” “Good morning,” or offer a similar greeting to people you know and to people you don’t know. The person that you say “hello” to on the way to the meeting may be the person sitting next to you during the meeting, and you will have established minor rapport already.  

2. Make some small talk. You don’t need to know people’s life stories, but a little small talk can help establish a connection between people. Use “safe” topics. You can talk about the weather (front-page stories such as hurricanes generally have more appeal), traffic, common experiences, travel, sports (if everyone is interested), entertainment (movies, plays), holiday celebrations, upbeat business news, vacations, current events (cautiously), and the activity you are attending. Additional information on small talk can be found in my book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

3. Offer to help, when you can. Why not offer to help when you can? If someone (male or female) is struggling with packages or seems overloaded with assignments, assisting that person is a nice thing to do. 

4. Have an exit line. An exit line establishes the ending of the encounter and paves the way for the next meeting. Sample exit lines include, “Nice talking to you,” “Have a great weekend,” or “Have a safe trip home.” I recently went to the doctor for a minor concern, and he had a great exit line that I have added to my list of favorites. As he was ending our visit, he added, “If it happens again, I’m here for you.” I almost want it to happen again! (This isn’t suitable for every occasion, but it is a warmly affirming line for an appropriate encounter, such as addressing a colleague’s minor problem. )

Pachter & Associates provides training and coaching on business etiquette, communication and career development. For more information, contact Joyce Hoff at 856.751.6141 or joyce@pachter.com

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