Feedback is a gift. And you never know where, when, or from whom it will come. But you must be ready to receive it, consider it, and, when appropriate, act on it.
Out of the Mouth of Babes
This past weekend, my husband Byron shared a very funny story about feedback he received while attending his Judo martial arts class. One of the students is a charming five year old Chinese-American boy who often requests to work with Byron. Yaya is the boy’s nickname and he is so adorable that most people want to take him home and adopt him. Last Saturday, Yaya asked to work with Byron during the Judo class. At one point, Yaya said “Something smells like Cheetos.” Byron then asked YaYa, “Do I smell like Cheetos?” to which Yaya replied, “When I’m around you, I smell Cheetos; but when you go away, I don’t smell Cheetos.”
Byron and I are still laughing about this experience and discussing its significance.
We also find it remarkable that Yaya did not say what most kids without a filter might say, such as, “You stink” or “You smell.” Instead, Yaya made an indirect comment without judgement that left Byron wondering “is it me?” and “is that good or bad?” “What does a Cheeto smell like any way?”
He figured out that the homemade pizza on the grill that we enjoyed Friday night was loaded with fresh farm garlic. The smell must have been permeating his skin twelve hours later when he took the Judo class.
I noticed that Byron washed his Judo uniform (known as a Gi) immediately after the Yaya comment. The little kid had an impact. Go Yaya! At five years of age, he has influence and ability to change people’s behavior.
As I prepared to write the blog, I wondered if anyone else had ever had this specific kind of feedback or reference to Cheetos. What did I find? Last year for April Fools Day 2014, the Cheetos company launched a prank by releasing a press release for a new perfume, Cheeteau perfume, so you can smell like cheese snacks. Check out these mock advertisements that the company released as part of the spoof.
I wrote about the problem with smells in Chapter 5 of my book, Networking Ahead for Business. The chapter was entitled “Road Grime and Door Dings: First and Last Impressions Count in Networking.” I’d like to share the section with you from page 41:
“How good do you smell? Do you smoke? Do you wear a lot of perfume or use heavily scented deodorant? Do you have coffee breath much of the time? All of these scents create strong first and lasting impressions, and most of the time they are negative.
If you are a smoker, you need to be aware that the smell of cigarette smoke permeates your hair, clothing, car, and anything you touch. It’s like the cloud that followed Pig-Pen, the character from the Charles Schultz “Peanuts” cartoon.
Your particular habits and lifestyle choices may have a significant negative impact on your professional image, and most people won’t tell you what they are thinking. Before you send me hate mail or put this book in the trash out of anger, please remember my intention is to help you to be more professionally successful with networking and relationship building. I also want you to live a full, healthy and rich life. Smoking is counterproductive to these goals.
For other bad smells, you need to take proactive action. Carry a toothbrush in your purse (carefully sealed of course); eat breath mints before meeting with people; rinse out your mouth with water more frequently (a suggestion from my dentist); pass up the perfume and go natural. (Some people are highly allergic to perfumes).
If you are meeting with people after a meal, you might want to watch how much garlic you eat. While excellent for your blood and health and absolutely delicious in my opinion, garlic will permeate your pores and you will smell of it. This might irritate other people who don’t enjoy garlic or didn’t partake of it that day. On the other hand, garlic will keep the networking vampires at a safe distance. These folks can suck the living daylights out of your professional network.
I close out Chapter 5 in my book with a quote from Dale Carnegie in his best selling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People:
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it”
Perhaps we should add how we smell. Thanks Yaya!