It’s Easy To Impress Others

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Common wisdom says that to stand out, you need to go the extra mile. That isn’t true.

Maybe it’s just an indictment of the state of things today (or the human race more broadly), but you don’t always have to go the extra mile to be impressive — you can just go an extra inch.

That’s good news, because standing out is one of the straightest paths to getting more opportunities in life. When you impress people, they want to work more with you. They want to spend more time with you. When other people ask about you, the people you’ve impressed will be quicker to speak your praises. It’s true that trying to stand out is partially a self-serving endeavor, and that’s okay. 

Below are a bunch of ways you can stand out. Note that there’s a real difference between standing out and being great. A lot of of the things below may seem obvious. And they are. It’s just that so many people don’t do them.

You should also try to be great, but that’s a separate essay. For now, here are easy ways you can stand out.

Email us if you have any more.

> Responding quickly. During the work week, there is rarely an excuse to respond more than ~15 hours after somebody sends you a message. If you can’t respond quickly, then a message like, “Hey - wanted to let you know I saw this. I’ll follow up here before the end of the week” can go a long way. And if you can consistently respond almost instantly — within 3 minutes or so — that can be even more memorable.

We know from experience. It’s easy to say ‘I’ll just reply tomorrow’ in your head and then forget to come back to the message. If you really can’t reply until tomorrow, you should just say that out loud. The bonus is it’s a forcing function for you to actually follow up later.

> Avoiding run-on sentences in live conversations. People are inefficient talkers. So, one way you can be impressive in conversation is to cut yourself uncomfortably short after you’ve said the thing you wanted to say. Pause and think before saying something else. Beware: anxiety and insecurity can increase your risk of overtalking. So if you ever feel anxious or insecure, note that down and be extra careful.

> Saying thank you. Yeah, those thank you notes your mom had you write after your birthday when you were a kid actually had some value. Thank yous are especially impactful when the situation doesn’t socially obligate you to send one. A quick, “Thanks for taking the time out of your day - I enjoyed chatting” after a call with someone can go a long way.

> Doing what you say you are going to do. There’s no objective number here, but we’d guess that more than 80% of written or verbal commitments made in the world never actually get done. Think about it: how often does a coworker say “I’ll get this over to you today” and then never do it? Take your commitments very seriously and do what you say you’re going to do.

> Communicating when things don’t go as planned. One fast-track to people being annoyed with you is saying you’ll do something, you not doing the thing on time, and you not telling that to anyone in advance. When something goes wrong, which it will at some point, you should let everyone involved know as soon as possible. It’s sometimes crazy how okay people can be with things going wrong when you communicate it to them in advance.

> Using disclaimers when providing your thoughts on something. When you provide your opinion on something — solicited or unsolicited — you can stand out by adding self-aware disclaimers. If a friend asks your opinion on a business decision they’re considering, you could start your feedback by saying, “I’m not fully immersed in your business and don’t understand all the nuances. I also don’t know all of your priorities. This is just my opinion from the outside”.

> Clarifying objectives before having a discussion. So many unproductive discussions happen because all the people involved have slightly different ideas of what the goal is. You can stand out by clarifying (best done in writing) the goal of what you’re talking about before you start talking about it. As an added benefit, this will make your work and conversations more productive.

> Caring a lot. Care about the people around you. The work you’re doing. The conversation you’re involved in. What someone else is saying. What someone else is feeling. The nice gesture someone did for you yesterday, or the smile someone gave you this morning. Just care a lot. Most people don’t!

> Being sincere. Yes, it’s true that being honest (rather than beating around the bush) tends to be helpful to the people you’re around. But you should also be genuine and candid more broadly — nobody likes being around a robot. The distinction here is that there are people who are good at giving direct feedback but who also inhabit personas; they act like robots. You can stand out as a coworker and a person by just being yourself.

> Being productive. Perhaps the most important but hardest to do on this list. Most people aren’t that productive, which means that being productive is a great way to stand out. People notice.

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