Jenny Davidow, Guest Author
How do you react to differences in others? Are you curious to learn more, or do you get impatient and put off? Will your reactions build a barrier or a bridge of connection? It’s up to you.
At work and in all aspects of life, I guarantee that you will meet people who don’t see the world like you do. People who don’t operate the same way you do. They may have very different goals and values. They may dress differently. They may speak differently. They may be from a different culture. Or they may look and sound just like you, but you still notice the differences.
In “The Art of Connecting,” the authors suggest that every individual is a “culture of one.” Because we are each unique, we have our own preferences. And our preferences make us “different” from others. Although much has been said about the value of diversity in team-building and society, still, in practice, I observe again and again that different preferences can get judged as “difficult” in either business or personal relationships.
This judgment gets us into trouble, because we are focusing on the negative, on how someone is not like us. Right away, there is a barrier, a polarization.
Learn how to build a bridge of connection, no matter how different, or difficult, someone is.
When you find yourself in a job, group or relationship with someone who is very different from you, the task of building a bridge of connection may seem daunting. Here is a short list of ways in which you can start:
• Make an offer. In terms borrowed from improv performance, whatever words or gestures you make with the intention to make a connection is an “offer.” An offer is an invitation to connect, to find commonality.
An offer can be as simple as a hello and a warm smile. If it is returned in kind, your offer was accepted. Build on that by making another offer, and another. Each time the connection will get stronger.
• Set a conscious intention to build a bridge of connection. Your intention is key. Even if your efforts are clumsy, if your intention is friendly, respectful and interested, your offer for connection is still positive.
• Find common ground. If you are engaged in a business deal with someone who is very different from you, remind yourself of ways in which you will both benefit from a successful outcome. Find common ground and shared humanity. For example, talk about your kids or your pets. Always assume that you and the other person have something in common. There is always the potential for a bridge of connection.
Whatever you focus on, you get more of. If you focus on differences, you will become polarized. If you focus on commonality, you get more connection.
• Be curious and respectful. Curiosity is one of the top five qualities of people who are most satisfied in life. Curiosity creates new pathways and connections in the brain. The more pathways, the more flexibility and creativity.
• Search for similarities. Think about interests or experiences you may have in common. Share something that is important to you, such as a love of children, gardening, hiking, etc. Tell a little about your last visit or outing. Ask what the other person likes to do to relax or have fun.Observe visual cues: Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, describes how researchers could make detailed observations about personality and preferences, describing a student they never met, simply because they paid attention to how the student organized and decorated his or her dorm room.
Use your powers of observation to note the other person’s style and preferences: Does the other person seem formal or informal in the way she or he speaks and talks? Is his or her energy level high, moderate or low? Notice choices in office decor and desk accessories (Are the choices personal? Is neatness and organization foremost?). Notice how he or she is dressed (casual or formal).
• Build nonverbal rapport. To build a bridge of connection, never underestimate the power of nonverbal communication. As much as you can, notice the pace and tone of the other person’s speech. It may not be the style you naturally prefer. Try to modify your style to match the other person’s preference, at least some of the time. This step builds rapport non-verbally.
• Build rapport through body language. Notice the other person’s way of standing or sitting. How much eye contact are they giving you? Are they smiling or not? Face the other person without being fully frontal. Let your body position be open and relaxed. Let your gaze be soft and non-challenging.
• Shape the outcome. Hold your positive intention to make a connection and let it express through your conversation and body language. Be careful about asking too many questions, as this could seem like domination. Balance your communication with some sharing about yourself, some respectful questions that could find common interests, and some attentive listening, while nodding your head. Listening well gives you what you need to put the right words together.
Most of us go into situations hoping we’ll make a good impression and be liked. Let the other person leave the meeting with the feeling of being respected and liked. Each time you meet, the bridge of connection will grow stronger.
Copyright © 2012 by Jenny Davidow. Reprinted with permission. Jenny Davidow is a Communication Coach and clinical hypnotherapist with 30 years experience. She specializes in training and support to hone the persuasiveness and impact of your presentations – in words, body language, and print. Through subconscious communication, she accelerates change to remove blocks, boost confidence and creativity. She is the author of “Embracing Your Subconscious.” Read Jenny’s articles on her Website and Blog.
Larry James is a Professional Speaker, Author and Coach. He presents networking seminars nationally and “Networking” coaching by telephone or one-on-one. His latest book is, Ten Commitments of Networking: Creative Ways to Maximize Your Personal Connections! Something NEW about Networking is posted on this Networking BLOG every 4th day! Visit Larry’s Networking Website at: “Networking HQ!”
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