How to Introduce Yourself: The Art of Self-Regulation

January 31, 2011 / General /

By Robert E. Quinn

(This image was found at

When I was a senior in college I took a job as a Fuller Brush salesman.  Each night, at 5 PM, I would drive to my sales area and look at the houses.  I dreaded the task ahead of me.  I would sometimes sit for an entire hour and do nothing.  Finally I would drag myself to the first door.  I would ask if the person was interested in buying my brushes.  The responses were usually negative.

After a time, I would conclude that I was wasting my time.  But I knew that the problem was not in the customers or in the product.  I knew the problem was me.  So I would make a conscious decision to reorient myself.  I had an important ritual.  I would squeeze my hands, paste a smile on my face and jump up and down for sixty seconds.  Then, without hesitation, I would run to the next door.  When the door opened, I would enthusiastically introduce myself.  I would then run down the street, continuing this process at each house.

In the conversations at the door, I always seemed to say just the right thing.  I would usually sell at 7 of the next 10 houses.  With each sale I would become more confident.  I would go home feeling great.  That year I successfully supported myself and my new wife working just 12 hours a week.  I attribute this to self-regulation and how I altered the process of introducing myself.

The research on self-regulation suggests that [1] we learn that goals matter (I wanted to sell).  When we care about our purpose we are more willing to regulate our feelings, thoughts and behaviors.  (I chose to change my feelings and how I would present myself.)  As we combine self regulation with self-efficacy, or the belief we can accomplish our goal, we become more adaptive.  We are more likely to perform well.  (I knew just what to say.)

In the next five entries I will suggest that how we introduce ourselves really matters and that it is something we can control.  What does the story above have to do with introducing yourself in everyday experiences, when you are NOT a salesperson? Does the above story or the research remind you of any of your own experiences? What have you done to regulate your emotional state in a positive or productive way? How has that influenced your performance? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



[1] Maddux, James E. (2002). Self-efficacy: The power of believing you can. In Snyder, C. R. (Ed); Lopez, Shane J. (Ed). Handbook of positive psychology. (pp. 277-287). London: Oxford University Press. xviii, 829pp.