Hard @Work: Blend In to Stand Out

Working in an office environment can be tedious. We’ve all pretended we were paying attention during a meeting at some time or another, and blending into the background is a great way to go about your day without too much hassle.

But what do you do when you want to stand out, when you want your boss to take notice and maybe get that promotion you’ve wanted? Blending in works just ass effectively in this situation, but in an entirely different way.

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One major way that you can make yourself appear to fit in with the top dogs is by mirroring them. Not entirely, but a little bit.  Mirroring is when you mimic some postures or gestures of a person you are talking with. It is a psychological way that people can become more comfortable with someone or subconsciously start to like them a little more. Taking it from the subconscious to the conscious level can help you hone your mirroring skills and, by extension, play a little mind trick on your boss to make him or her like you a little bit more and pay more attention to what you have to say.

It’s a very easy thing to do: observe how the person you are talking to sits, how they stand, if they use a lot of hand gestures. Now, do one of those things. Is your boss sitting with her legs crossed? Sit with your legs crossed. Does he tend to not use many hand gestures? Try and control yours if you use a lot of them. Little things like this, as long as you keep up your conversation as usual, can make a huge difference in a person’s perception of you.

You can do it!

You can do it!

But not everyone gets to have face time with their boss every day. Maybe you don’t even get to see the head honcho for weeks at a time. But this doesn’t mean you can’t still practice your mirroring skills from afar.

Mirroring how a person writes an informal email is an incredibly effective way of giving someone a feeling of kinship, even if you are debating an issue and are on opposing sides. Yes, you want to stand out to your boss, but using exclamation points and emoticons all the time will only make you seem over-eager. Instead, if you are responding to a less formal email from your boss, notice how she addresses it. Does she use your first name followed by a comma? By a dash? Does she start with “hi” or “hey?” Format your reply the same way and they will automatically feel comfortable reading your message.

Maybe your boss is really stuffy and formal in their writing (and not just big company announcements, which are always stuffy and formal). In that case, take a minimalistic approach to punctuation. Maybe your boss is pretty cool and uses emoticons. You don’t necessarily have to use them too, but if you do, try and use the same style, for instance:  : -) vs : o) vs : ) and so forth. If your boss uses bullet points to address issues, respond with bullet points.

These may seem like odd, quirky things to do, and they can certainly feel like it at first. But mirroring lets the other person focus on what you have to say and not how you are saying it. People already do this subconsciously, so it won’t make you stand out as a wannabe, but it will make you seem like you fit right in. People won’t be distracted by how you stand when you talk or how you punctuate emails if you just do what they do; they will be able to put all of their focus on your ideas and thoughts.

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