It seems like..

Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss writes in Never Split The Difference, his manual of persuasive techniques, there are five stages in what’s known as the “behavioural change stairway model” that take anyone from “listening to influencing behaviour”. The first stage is active listening – namely, being able to show the other person that you have taken in what they’ve said and, more importantly, have a sense of what it means to them.  Rather than focusing on what you want to say, listen to what the other person is telling you, then try to repeat it back to them. Start with, “It seems like what you’re saying is” or “Can I just check, it sounds like what you’re saying is”. If that feels too contrived, it often works simply to repeat the last sentence or thought someone has expressed (known in counselling practice as “reflecting”).  What to say Try, “It seems like you’re feeling frustrated with this situation – is that right?” Always give the other person the opportunity to comment on or correct your assessment. 

Rosie Ifould writing in The Guardian 

Yes, but

“We all know the phrase ‘Yes, but’ really means ‘No, and here’s why you’re wrong’,” says Rob Kendall, author of Workstorming. A conversation expert, Kendall sits in on other people’s meetings as an observer. The phrase “Yes, but” is one of the classic warning signs that you’re in an unwinnable conversation, he says. “If you hear it three or more times in one discussion, it’s a sign that you’re going nowhere.”  Kendall advises shifting the conversation by asking the other person “What’s needed here?” or, even better, “What do you need?” “It takes you from what I call ‘blamestorming’ to a solution-focused outcome.”  

Rosie Ifould writing in The Guardian 

Would you be Willing?

Elizabeth Stokoe, professor of social interaction at Loughborough University, and her colleagues, have analysed thousands of hours of recorded conversations, from customer services to mediation hotlines and police crisis negotiation. They discovered that certain words or phrases have the power to change the course of a conversation.

People who had already responded negatively when asked if they would like to attend mediation seemed to change their minds when the mediator used the phrase, “Would you be willing to come for a meeting?” “As soon as the word ‘willing’ was uttered, people would say: ‘Oh, yes, definitely’ – they would actually interrupt the sentence to agree.” Stokoe found it had the same effect in different settings: with business-to-business cold callers; with doctors trying to persuade people to go to a weight-loss class. She also looked at phrases such as “Would you like to” and “Would you be interested in”. “Sometimes they worked, but ‘willing’ was the one that got people to agree more rapidly and with more enthusiasm.”

Rosie Ifouldwriting in The Guardian 

The most important factor in a relationship

Communication, no matter how open, transparent and disciplined, will always break down at some point. Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt.

And the only thing that can save you and your partner, that can cushion you both to the hard landing of human fallibility, is an unerring respect for one another, the fact that you hold each other in high esteem, believe in one another — often more than you each believe in yourselves — and trust that your partner is doing his/her best with what they’ve got.

Without that bedrock of respect underneath you, you will doubt each other’s intentions. You will judge their choices and encroach on their independence. You will feel the need to hide things from one another for fear of criticism. And this is when the cracks in the edifice begin to appear.

You must also respect yourself. Because without that self-respect, you will not feel worthy of the respect afforded by your partner. You will be unwilling to accept it and you will find ways to undermine it. You will constantly feel the need to compensate and prove yourself worthy of love, which will just backfire.

Respect for your partner and respect for yourself are intertwined. As a reader named Olov put it, “Respect yourself and your wife. Never talk badly to or about her. If you don’t respect your wife, you don’t respect yourself. You chose her – live up to that choice.”

Mark Manson writing in Business Insider 

The Victorian Internet

Tom Standage writes in his book The Victorian Internet, “That the telegraph was so widely seen as a panacea is perhaps understandable. The fact that we are still making the same mistake today is less so. The irony is that even though it failed to live up to the utopian claims made by about it, the telegraph really did transform the world.”

The Internet, like the telegraph, offers tremendous potential for altering the world in a positive way. But we would be wise to temper our enthusiasm.

As Standage suggests, “Better communication does not necessarily lead to a wider understanding of other points of view: the potential of new technologies to change things for the better is invariably overstated, while the ways in which they will make things worse are usually unforeseen.”

Stephen Goforth

enthusiam makes the difference

As part of an experiment, midcareer executives competed against one another by pitching business plans to other execs at the same level. After the presentations, the executives rated all the plans. MIT researchers discovered they could predict which plans would be well received, just by observing the presenter’s tone of voice. The greater the presenter’s excitement and confidence, the more likely the plan would be met with approval. Think about that: The enthusiasm and charisma of the presenter was as critical to the plan’s success as the facts he or she was presenting.

The MIT researchers also found these elements played a critical role in a fruitful outcome:

* a consistent tone and motion

* confidence and practice

* mirroring the interviewer's gestures

* acting active and helpful

Stephen Goforth

Wait - You Didn’t Use the Correct Lingo

Once introduced, a prescriptive rule about terminology in a particular profession or field of study is very heard to eradicate, no matter how ridiculous. Steven Pinker writes in The Language Instinct:

The rules survive by the same dynamic that perpetuates ritual genital mutilations and college fraternity hazing: I had to go through it and am none the worse, so why should you have it any easier? Anyone daring to overturn a rule by example must always worry that readers will think he or she is ignorant of the rule, rather than challenging it. Since perspective rules are so psychologically unnatural that only those with access to the right schooling can abide by them, they serve as shibboleths, differentiating the elite from the rabble.

Stephen Goforth

handling offensive behavior

Whenever possible, express your feelings about offensive behavior from a positive rather than a negative perspective. Negative expressions state your dislike, as in “I hate you when you do that,” “You make me angry,” “You make me feel insecure and unloved,” or “You’re insensitive and overbearing.” You can be more effective if you focus on the common goals and the shortcomings of the interaction, rather than your hatreds.

Goal oriented statements might be, “I think that your behavior and my reaction to it are preventing us from having a pleasant relationship.”

You might try new ways to express your feelings, using metaphors on describing the concrete aspects of your emotional reactions. Thus you might express embarrassment by the metaphor “I feel naked and exposed,” or express conflict by “I feel my head spinning in two directions at once.” Striking metaphors may produce a greater impact than the accustomed “emotional words” that have been worn out in your interchanges with others.

Sharon and Gordon Bower, Asserting Yourself

The Elevator Speech

The Challenge: Create a compelling speech about your entire professional life lasting no more than 15-second. Be able to offer it on demand and under pressure.

The so-called “elevator pitch” requires serious practice. Regardless of the audience, regardless of whether you are sitting, standing or walking down a hall or talking on the phone, you should be comfortable. You never know whether your next open door will take place at family gatherings, in the waiting room of the doctor’s office or at a coffee shop.

You’ll want to describe the impact you have had and can continue to have on a project or work environment. Make it about who you are rather than what you do. Don’t try to rattle off as much information as possible. Be thoughtful and deliberate. Show you are calm and confidence. Yet still be passionate and genuine.

Here are some question that may help you discover your elevator pitch and paint a compelling self portrait:

What do you think your value to an employer really is?

What have you been proudest of in your work life?

What do you love to do?

What makes you unique?

A word of caution; Pre-packaged, over-practiced pitches can come across as lacking respect for the person you are trying to win over. They are not a means to an end but a person. Your goal isn’t just to sell yourself but start an "elevator conversation." It's not just about yourself, it’s about us.

Think of it this way: Most people want to hire interesting intelligent people with whom they would enjoy spending their working day.

Stephen Goforth

What are they hiding?

When people speak in vague generalities.. and use a lot of abstract terms like “justice”, “morality”, “liberty” and so no, without really ever explaining the specifics of what they are talking about, they are almost always hiding something.

Meanwhile, people who use cutesy, colloquial language, brimming with clichés and slang, may be trying to distract you from the thinness of their ideas, trying to win you over not by the soundness of their arguments but by making you feel chummy and warm toward them. And people who use pretentious, flowery language, crammed with clever metaphors, are often more interested in the sound of their own voices than in reaching the audience with a genuine thought. In general, you must pay attention to the forms in which people express themselves; never take their content at face value.

Robert Greene, The 33 Strategies of War

How talkers and non-talkers can get along

There are two kinds of people in the world: Talkers and non-talkers. While it might seem like common sense to match the two types together in marriage, that’s not necessarily a recipe for marital bliss. Many non-talkers are also non-listeners. And despite the growing number of ways to communicate, technology is becoming a substitute for engagement rather than a supplement.

Add to the mix the perception that women talk more than men--a stereotype with research support. Men and women process language differently because their brains are built differently. Women find the communication process easier because they possess several advantages: They have more nerve cells in the part of the brain that processes language, they have a greater degree of connectivity between the two halves of the brain, and they have more dopamine in the part of the brain that controls language.

Ideally, we’d find someone who complements us, someone willing to listen as much as we want to talk--and vice versa. Barring discovery of the perfect fit, here are a few tips from the experts:

  • Recognize the different between silence and someone really listening. Active listening means being engaged with nonverbal cues and reflecting back what the speaker has said.
  • Be honest with one another and ask for a break when the non-talker runs low on gas. Be respectful and give it to him.
  • Don’t make the mistake of thinking brief summaries will do the trick. These bursts may not give enough time for an emotional connection.
  • Instead of numbing an emotionally-depleted spouse, find an attentive audience of friends who can provide what a talker needs.

Stephen Goforth

The incessant demands of the inbox

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

Sure, there’s the money you paid for your computer and your internet connection, but there is no incremental cost to sending one more email. Compare this with paper letters. Each one incurred the price of the envelope and the postage stamp, and although this doesn’t represent a lot of money, these were in limited supply – if you ran out of them, you’d have to make a special trip to the stationery store and the post office to buy more, so you didn’t use them frivolously. The sheer ease of sending emails has led to a change in manners, a tendency to be less polite about what we ask of others. Many professionals tell a similar story. One said, “A large proportion of emails I receive are from people I barely know asking me to do something for them that is outside what would normally be considered the scope of my work or my relationship with them. Email somehow apparently makes it OK to ask for things they would never ask by phone, in person, or in snail mail.”

Most emails demand some sort of action: Click on this link to see a video of a baby panda, or answer this query from a co-worker, or make plans for lunch with a friend, or delete this email as spam. All this activity gives us a sense that we’re getting things done – and in some cases we are. But we are sacrificing efficiency and deep concentration when we interrupt our priority activities with email.

Daniel J Levitin writing in The Guardian

The incessant demands of the inbox

Before email, if you wanted to write to someone, you had to invest some effort in it. You’d sit down with pen and paper, or at a typewriter, and carefully compose a message. There wasn’t anything about the medium that lent itself to dashing off quick notes without giving them much thought, partly because of the ritual involved, and the time it took to write a note, find and address an envelope, add postage, and take the letter to a mailbox. Because the very act of writing a note or letter to someone took this many steps, and was spread out over time, we didn’t go to the trouble unless we had something important to say. Because of email’s immediacy, most of us give little thought to typing up any little thing that pops in our heads and hitting the send button. And email doesn’t cost anything.

Sure, there’s the money you paid for your computer and your internet connection, but there is no incremental cost to sending one more email. Compare this with paper letters. Each one incurred the price of the envelope and the postage stamp, and although this doesn’t represent a lot of money, these were in limited supply – if you ran out of them, you’d have to make a special trip to the stationery store and the post office to buy more, so you didn’t use them frivolously. The sheer ease of sending emails has led to a change in manners, a tendency to be less polite about what we ask of others. Many professionals tell a similar story. One said, “A large proportion of emails I receive are from people I barely know asking me to do something for them that is outside what would normally be considered the scope of my work or my relationship with them. Email somehow apparently makes it OK to ask for things they would never ask by phone, in person, or in snail mail.”

Most emails demand some sort of action: Click on this link to see a video of a baby panda, or answer this query from a co-worker, or make plans for lunch with a friend, or delete this email as spam. All this activity gives us a sense that we’re getting things done – and in some cases we are. But we are sacrificing efficiency and deep concentration when we interrupt our priority activities with email.

Daniel J Levitin writing in The Guardian