Sometimes Five Seconds Is All It Takes

Posted by Todd Smith

An interesting experience last week reminded me that sometimes it only takes five seconds to make an impact.

I had a public-speaking engagement and during the two-day event, I exchanged business cards with numerous people.  Because, frankly, I am proud of my new Little Things Matter business cards, I noticed people’s reactions when I gave them one.  Some people immediately put it in their pocket or wallet without even looking at it, while others studied it and in some cases either asked a question or said something complimentary about my card.

Here is what I found most interesting.

I found myself attracted to the people who took an extra five seconds to look at my business card.

I also found myself feeling slightly offended by those who had no interest in looking at my card.

Here’s the really intriguing part: my reactions were instinctive. I didn’t realize that my impressions were being formed so quickly and that I was looking for a certain reaction when I handed someone my card.

In fact, it wasn’t until I read a Success Magazine article on the airplane trip home that I realized what had happened. The March 2010 issue featured an interview with Mark Jefferies, author of What’s Up With Your Handshake?

In this interview, Mark said, “You have to make the other person feel great about their communication with you.  Don’t put someone’s business card in your pocket.  They are handing you a little life story.  If you don’t take a moment to look at the card, acknowledge it, and say something about it, you are missing a huge opportunity to tilt the scales in your favor.  This is one differentiator point, but it could be all you need to get into positive territory.”


His words caused me to think about the weekend and my business-card exchanges.  He described exactly how I felt. Without realizing it, I was attracted to the people who showed an interest in my card and turned off by those who did not.

To me, there were two BIG takeaways from this experience.

First, our opinions and thoughts are often formed at the subconscious level and our reactions become instinctive. As an example, if you greet people with a smile and a firm handshake, they will be instinctively drawn to you. But I doubt they consciously think “I like your smile and handshake.”

This is a perfect example of why little things matter.  Everything we do or don’t do makes an impression.  The more positive impressions we make, the more likable and respected we will become.

Second, there is value in showing an interest in the things that are important to other people, even something as simple as their business card. I must admit that even though I have focused on “the little things” for more than two decades, I had never thought about taking the time to show an interest in someone’s business card.  And I probably have been the guy who barely looked at the card and just put it in my pocket or wallet.

The next time you receive someone’s business card, take the time to really look at it. Perhaps you can compliment them on their logo or ask a question about their company. Demonstrate your interest and remember that five seconds may be all it takes to make a positive impression.

When you show an interest in others and the things that are important to them, they will be instinctively drawn to you.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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