How to Introduce Yourself: The Power of Honest Signals

In the last five blog entries, I have illustrated the leadership potential in changing how we introduce ourselves.  We can choose to greet people as we normally do, or we can choose to do it with heart-felt positivity.  I have shared examples of how this unusual choice can result in surprising outcomes.  But why?

Imagine a competition in which a group of business executives must present business plans to a set of judges.  Alex Pentland, a professor at MIT, gathered such a group.  One week before their competition, he collected data on each executive.  Then without any information on what they actually presented, he predicted who would win.  His predictions were 87% accurate.  How is this possible?

Pentland measured how each executive sends social signals.  Social signals are things like tone of voice, facial expressions, and how we physically place ourselves in relation to another.  He says humans send many kinds of signals but there is one kind of signal that is particularly important.  He says honest or authentic signals make the big difference.

When we communicate, people look for enthusiasm and confidence.  When authentic, positive signals are sent, people pay attention.  They also change.  Contagious, positive emotions are transferred through biological functions.

The research suggests that successful people communicate more positive energy.  They talk more, but they also listen more.  They spend more time face to face, so they pick up more signals.  In this communication process, they elicit things from others.  They have the ability to get others to express themselves.  Energetic and positive people can lift an entire network of people.  The research also suggests face time with other people is 250% more important than access to more information.




  • What do these findings suggest about how we could improve our own lives?
  • What do they imply about the process by which we choose to introduce ourselves?
  • In greeting people today, what could you do today that you have never done before?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?


One comment on “How to Introduce Yourself: The Power of Honest Signals

  1. I’ve really enjoyed this series on introductions and the importance of learning and using people’s names!

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