Like you own it!
My cousin studies fashion at the University of Winchester and as part of her research project into high-end fashion we went ‘shopping’ on Bond Street in London. With no cash and a Santander student overdraft that just wasn’t going to cut it we knew we weren’t going to buy anything. But it quickly became apparent how important it was that the shop assistants didn’t.
The first ridiculously overpriced designer shop we went in my cousin politely asked if she could look around for research purposes and if they had any catalogs she could take away as she was a fashion student etc. This was clearly a mistake and we were hurried out onto the pavement as if our mere presence as non-potential purchasers was going to result in bankruptcy for the entire brand.
We re-evaluated our tact. We have every right to be in an expensive store, you don’t have to buy anything, there’s no law which says we must. We can look on our own terms. We don’t have to justify ourselves to snotty store assistants.
We marched into the next store with our heads held high like we had every right to be there. We leisurely browsed the racks, chatting as if we were completely at home trying on coats that cost more than my entire years rent and suddenly people couldn’t be more helpful. Every request was greeted with a “certainly, madam,” and “is there anything else I can do for you?” I was totally stunned by the difference!
I had always considered the idea of self-fulfilling prophecy (Merton, 1947) to be related to one’s own beliefs and expectations about themselves; i.e. I believe I’m rubbish at maths, I expect to fail and so I’m quick to give up and therefore I tend to preform badly. However this experience taught me that your beliefs and attitudes can influence how other people respond to you as well. Instead of walking into a store like “we can’t afford any of this stuff but would you be kind enough to let us look around?” walk in confidently assuming what you want - that you can look around – and you’re much more likely to get it in reality.
Moral of the story: Assume you belong and people will treat you as if you do. Walk in like you own the place and people will believe you do… or at least you could*.
*if you had the money!
Merton, R. K. (1947). Mass persuasion.