4 really small things that say a lot about you

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Ever been asked to say a few things about yourself? Perhaps you said you’re a good communicator, attentive to details, or even a team player. The point being, we all define ourselves in a certain way.

Here’s the paradox, though; It’s not what you say that is an accurate representation of who you are, but rather what you show yourself to be. That is how people judge you. They respond to the image you project. As such, it’s critical to focus on what you do rather than what you say.

If you want to sell yourself to the world in an authentic way, focus on these four really small things because they say a lot about you. This way, you’re guaranteed to make a lasting impression and command respect from people.

1. How you keep time

I used to be terrible at this. I’d always underestimate the amount of time I had to arrive to meet a friend or an appointment. I’d end up rushing like a headless chicken only to show up full of embarrassment and with beads of sweat forming on my forehead.

It took a while to learn the value of keeping time. Eventually, I got better at it. There’s a lot to be said about people who don’t keep time. It screams inefficiency, unreliability, and disorganization. A person who is always late doesn’t do a very good job of managing their responsibilities and their overall lives.

Failing to keep time is terrible, but it’s worse when other people are involved. You see, when you’re consistently late for meetings, it shows you don’t respect other people. Because you put your needs before them, steal their time, and you disturb their experience.

Over time, it can strain your relationships because they can’t depend on you to keep your word. They stop taking you seriously. On the other hand, when you agree to meet someone, and you’re there on time –a few minutes earlier is worth bonus points — that person will respect you.

It might seem like a small act, but it signals self- respect, discipline, and integrity. When you’re tardy, though? Sadly, no one will want to hang around you because you can’t be trusted to keep your word. Being late is essentially breaking a promise.

If you want to keep time and avoid the overwhelm that comes from rushing all the time, overestimate the time required to arrive at a meeting. For example, leave home 15 minutes earlier.

2. How you engage in a conversation

A conversation is the most basic way of human interaction — one that speaks volumes about us. Here’s why; when you talk to someone, they pick up on your tone of voice and the contents of the conversation. And whatever they pick up on makes them know who you really are.

But there’s one vital element of conversations that we normally overlook — asking questions. Asking questions can improve the quality and engagement of your discussions in a big way. According to the American psychological association:

“People who ask more questions, particularly follow-up questions, are better liked by their conversation partners. When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.”

What this means is that you should ask more questions. Often you think you’ll come across as being offensive but in fact, if you want the other person to be relaxed and to open up more, ask more questions.

I found this to be true in my previous job. The more questions I asked my passengers, the more information they divulged. This is normal. People love talking about themselves. It’s just how we’re wired.

Also, next time you’re having a conversation with someone, ask yourself, “How am I listening?” Rather than listening while formulating a response in your mind, focus on the words coming out of the other person’s mouth.

Be genuinely present, give them your full undivided attention. Put away your phone, don’t yawn or get distracted.

3. How you dress

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” — Miuccia Prada

The fashion industry is worth about 1.5 trillion dollars for a reason. Let’s face it; humans are visual. Why do you think the hype around designer outfits, make-over shows, and online shopping never seem to fizzle? Some may argue this is vain but let’s face it; Dressing well can influence your social standing significantly.

This is clearly evidenced by a study conducted by a team in the UK and Turkey. Upon completion, two things became apparent: A) Your clothes create your impressions, and B) your clothes can make a massive difference to what people think about you — even without knowing you.

Although the study was conducted on male clothing, it’s relevant across all genders. So if you want to create a lasting impression on people, you need to start wearing fashionable, smart, and stylish outfits. If you’re not sure where to start, just search online for the latest fashion trends.

Another benefit of immaculate dressing is that it speaks well of your character. By the image you present, your personality shines through and draws people to you, which in turn ignites a spark of self-esteem and gives you incredible confidence.

4. How you improve yourself

“Make the most of yourself….for that is all there is of you.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

If your classmates from Elementary School met you today, what would they say? Would your current self surprise them? Or would you be exactly how they knew you? The truth is, school pushes us to be better, to aim higher, and demands more from us.

But when we’re done riding that wave, most people lay down their tools and call it a day. They stop developing, growing, and challenging themselves for a higher and better life.

Recently, I’ve started waking up at least an hour earlier than usual to read. What I’ve found is that end of a reading session, even just an hour, my mind becomes impregnated with a flood of ideas, my perspectives shift, and my beliefs are either challenged or reinforced.

Although powerful, reading is only one tiny sliver of self-improvement. There’s so much that goes into it, like working towards a healthy body, changing jobs, creating a new hobby, or learning a new skill.

The underlying message behind improving yourself says you hold yourself in high regard, you expect more from yourself, and you’re excited about your life. How awesome is that? This is why you must never stop improving yourself.

When you’re doing your best to become the best version, you’re prepping yourself to bask in the fullness of life. If you’re young, this means you’re creating a future that you’ll be proud of in the coming decades. If you’re older, it means you get to enjoy a good quality of life today.

Changing these little things about takes time because habits become ingrained in you from an early age. All you need is to make small changes, and over time, the compound effect will transform you.

But no matter how long it takes, it’s worth it. When you’re intentional about the image you project to others, it can have a significant impact on your own life.

This article first appeared on Medium.