ONE major aspect of your personal image comes from how well you have developed your brain.

Can your mind lift abstract concepts from The Wall Street Journal or from the professional journal in your field? Can you grasp the intricacies of a problem explained by an expert from another field? Can you hang in there when getting an issue settled is going to mean clearing seven committees and dealing with the CEO?

Learn from people

Try to get in the habit of not assigning labels to people. At work, for instance, do not dismiss the opinions of a “mere clerk” while perhaps over-valuing those of a “consultant”.

It takes intellectual strength to appreciate each person’s unique, human side and not judge them according to what category you fit them into. By doing so, you will win their respect and maybe learn something too.

Seek knowledge

Depth of knowledge refers to how well you understand your own area of expertise. The more you know about it, the more power and influence you will have.

Charismatic people often make good first impressions not because they are smarter than others but because they are better prepared.

But if depth of knowledge alone were enough to make a good impression, chemists would bond with other chemists, policemen with other policemen, and taxidermists with other taxidermists. Then, what about the rest of the world?

Breadth of knowledge enables you to engage in meaningful social talk, the social lubricant that looms large in all human exchanges. Thus, by being informed on a wide range of topics, you will be able to project a favourable image more easily with more people.

Learn something new

It may take some effort but learning something new will broaden your mind and make you a more interesting and intelligent conversationalist.

Here are a few suggestions:

*Take some classes in a subject, such as art history, acting or geology, you have always wondered about but never studied;

*Commit to teaching yourself a new and difficult skill, like celestial navigation, gourmet cooking, origami, or wine-making;

*Join a foreign affairs group, an investment club or a reading circle where new issues and speakers abound; or

*Listen to a daytime TV talk show without making judgments (now that’s a real test of mental discipline) about the intelligence of the participants!