You never really know somebody until you see the choices she makes. As a nurse, you have long known that its usually not the medical but the people challenges that determine how well you can do your job.
We instinctively pidgeonhole people into categories to make the world more understandable and then get surprized by a co-worker?s sudden vehemence about a new subject. That is the mystery of life. You can have fewer surprizes, however, when you seek to understand others? less visible, underlying motives and you may find easier, more satisfying ways of working with them. Notice, for example, that what you -- and others -- don?t reveal or say often says it all.
Problems seldom exist at the level at which they are expressed.
Like many photogaphers before him, Richard Zaltman was visting remote areas of the world to capture images of people living lives far removed from those in the United States. One morning, while walking through an isolated village in Bhutan, he suddenly got the idea of turning his camera over to the locals to see what they would consider significant enough to show others about themselves. Later, when he looked at all their pictures, he noticed that most of the photos cut off people?s feet. ?At first, I thought the villagers had just aimed wrong,? Zaltman says. ?But it turns out that being barefoot is a sign of poverty. Even though everyone was barefoot, people wanted to hide that - -which is an important message to see.?
We do no see things as they are. We see them as we are.
As surrealist painter, Rene Magrite wrote, ?Everything we see hides something else we want to see.? Surrealists in art and literature in the 1920s and 1930s sought to understand and portray others? subconsious perceptions of the physical world. If you want insights into why people do what they do -- so you can get them to be more open to doing what you want them to do -- discover their unstated or even unconscious motivations for protection or pleasure. To ?Say It Better? uncover what they feel but are not saying.
Here are five ways to learn more about underlying feelings -- yours and others -- so you can be more thoughtful, clearand genuine in your choices and your communiciation.
1. Look for the ?Bare Feet? That Aren?t in the Picture To better understand someone and how to inspire that person to take positive action, learn to recognize his unstated ?hot buttons of high emotion?, positive or negative. These are the major rules to his ?operating manual? -- what makes him run smoothly, bump into obstacles or simply get stuck.
People act most quickly and intensely to avoid what they fear, even if their worst fear has a much lower probability of occurring than the possibility of their dream scenario. That?s because our deepest, most innate and primeval gut instinct is to survive. We reflexively react to any appearance of danger from the most primative, triune part of the brain, which was developed way back when ?fight or flight? seemed the only options for any situation.
2. See Them in Motion to See Their Emotions Seek to understand what the other person most wants to avoid; what most annoys them or makes them angry or anxious.
To recognize their hot buttons, look for changes in their behavior as signals that you are on a hot topic of concern. Facial expression tells others how we feel, while our bodies suttest the intensity of our feelings. Look for the ?vital signs? of increased excitment such as dilated pupils, constricted throat that produces a higher and /or thinner voice, rapid blinking, flushed face, more rapid and shallow breathing or much less breathing and avoidance of direct eye contact when he had looked you in the eye earlier in the conversation.
If the person usually moves and gestures little, look for the times when he has more and more rapid body movements and hand or foot changes. If he tend to be more animated, look for the times when he becomes more still.
Women, in time of increased concern, are more likely to hand dance, that is move the hands and forearms more.
When seated, men tend to leak their feelings through twitching one foot when their legs are crossed.
In general, in times of conflict or other kinds of tension, women tend to move and talk more and more; men tend to move and talk less and less. Psychiatrist, Pierre Mornell wrote a book about this phenomena, vividly called Passive Men and Wild, Wild Women.
Once you recognize when someone gets upset, you can consider what gets them upset and come closer to understand their operating manual. Now you can present your ideas in ways that address their concern, either directly or indirectly. Thus you can get someone to either take action to avoid their perceived danger or recognize how the perceived danger can be overcome or avoided to they can contemplate an ?upside? opportunity.
3. People Often Don?t Understand Their Own Strong Reactions Many times we are not aware of our underlying fears or concerns. We often go through life in a trance, reacting to earlier patterns, especially vividly negative experiences, and not knowing that we are not acting in our current best interests. A client of mine only realized at age 42 that because she?d had a stocky brother who often physically and verbally bullied her, she?d developed a pattern the rest of her life of what she now calls ?preemptive defensiveness? around any man she met with a similiarly chunky body type. Only by understanding her heretofore unconscious ?imprinting? from childhood could she begin to change her behavior towards new people she met.
Another colleague grew up in a household where tidiness and timeliness were paramount. He was the ?black sheep? in the family who resisted. Even into adulthood, he kept a messy home and office,and was often late, especially for people he felt were trying to control him. However, until he recognized the pattern -- and his core unconscious motivation for free could he choose how he really wanted to act.
Few people are aware of how dramatically bodies shut down in times of perceived crisis or even unfamiliar situations, yet the phenomena has wide implications. In times of fear or even mild discomfort, people have diminished hearing. They start listening to you later in the conversation and hear and remember less. Their peripheral vision narrows in times of mild or extreme upset. Even the ability to taste goes down. Imagine a police officer who?s afraid in a dark alley, a surgeon who becomes angry during an operation or a child facing a teacher on the first day of school.
In each ?shut down? situation, they are hampering theirability to perform and others may misinterpret their slowed down reactions, with possible negative consequences for several people in the situation. You may see the pattern in someone else?s hot buttons when they do not, especially if you are around that person frequently. If this person is close to you at home or work, it pays to recognize their unstated warning signs so you appear as safe and familiar as possible to that person, so they can be open to hearing you.
Don?t assume the other person fully realizes why she is saying or acting the way she is. Her words or deeds may have very different meaning for him than for you. For example, many Americans are disturbed when another person does not look them directly in the eye while talking. Yet for some cultures, such as Spanish, direct eye contact demonstrates a lack of respect. Many shy people or those deep in thought prefer to look away.
When someone else does not act right, like you, your strongest instinct will be to make them act right by acting out a more extreme variation of your ?right? behavior. For example, you may become exaggerated in your attempt to look closely at the other person so they will look at you. Instead, look to your ?bottom line?, the main goal in the situation -- which may be to get a task done or to simply play. Do not focus on changing them unless -- and this is rare -- their behavior is interfering with your goal.
4. We Are Far More Revealing by the Questions We Ask Than the Answers We Give To increase the chances of learning what is really on someone?s mind -- and thus what will motivate them to act -- know that people are far more revealing when they are the questioners. when they are question you, rather than when you are questioning them. While we are taught to ask questions to show interest and learn more about another person, we will learn more, more deeply and quickly when we get that person to ask us questions. How? Explain something that engages their interest, touching on the highlights so they want to ask questions to learn more. Respond directy but briefly to their questions so they are ?in charge? and asking follow-up questions to learn still more. Note the direction that the oother person?s questions take. On average, by the third question, you will know more about the nature of their deeper concern or interest than if you had ?taken charge?, even with good intent to ask your own sequence of questions. Why? Because you don?t know what you don?t know. Your lien of questions will be based on your world view and operating manual. Their line of questions will reveal theirs. Their questions bring you closer to what?s most on their mind, especially if they could ask them in close sequence to get at what they msot wanted to know.
5. What Do You Not See in Yourself? Want to learn more about your own blind spots and hot buttons? Or solve a nagging, recurring problem? Or have a novel approach to an opporutnity pop into your mind? Take time to do some of the apparently time-consuming daily tasks you often do too fast or hire someone else to do: garden, wash your car,walk rather than drive to an errand, buld or repair it yourself. You need these times to ?sidelong? glance at the periphery of your thoughts to gain insights into your own ?operating manual.?
When you do a physical task, especially one that involves motion, sunshine and fresh air, your mind can move in different directions. Consider these task your ?mental cross-training? to get deeper into yor own psyche and imagination.
You?ll gain a second benefit from your labors. Beth Berg created a job out of designing and maintaining rich person?s gardens in Southern California. We went sailing near Santa Catalina Island in a boat lent to her by Richard, a client who was detained in New York and could not use it. I asked her if she would ever hire someone like herself to do some of her maintenance tasks. ?I don?t think so,? she replied. ? I think I would always want to take care of those basic things in my life. Because if you don?t put the work into something, you don't know the worth of it either.?
Beth said that she told Richard, her client, ?We plant these flowers in your garden and most of the time you just walk by them. It?s sad, really. You don?t get the good feelings from your life that I get from your life.?
Ways to Sidelong Glance Back at Your Own Decisionmaking
? Do the mundane to experience the profound. ? Go slow to go fast. ? Step back from your hot subject to walk close to it. ? Do something real to see something intangible. ? Move your hands and body to move your mind and imagination. ? Look sideways to see directly. ? Look wide to see narrowly. ? Look at what you hate to recognize what you fear and don?t like in yourself. ? Hear your criticisms to see your inadequacies. ? Notice what you avoid to recognize what you need to learn next. ? Notice when and where you dabble, doodle and dawdle to see your dreams.
"'YES" Triggers to Make Genuine Connection and Enduring Agreements With Others"
Here are some specific and practical suggestions on how to act honorably and productively in negotiating and in resolving conflict:
1. Anticipate what you want out of a situation before you go into it. Know your most important goal in the situation in advance, then you will be more able to liten, open and flexible in the situation. Without a goal, you have less context, thus you listen less and are more likely to be ridig and reactionary. You can always change your goal in the situation.
2. Demonstate visible goodwill upfront. Establish your willingness to find a compromise and ability to be genial even and especially if you don't like the person or the situation. This is first a commitment to your own standard of behavior, and secondly the best way to keep the channels open.
3. Know that "less is often more." Especially in the beginning, listen more, talk and move less and keep your motions and voice lower and slower. These animal behaviors increase the chances that others will feel more safe and comfortable around you.
4. Go slow to go fast. When you first meet and re-meet people, move and talk more slowly and obliquely. Give them room to "own their territory" and feel heard. Later you can be more direct and move quickly. For role models, watch of the classic tv lead characters (with the sound on and off) in Murder, She Wrote, Matlock and Columbo.
5. Act as if the world is going to treat you well. Look to their positive intent, especially when they appear to have none, and you are more likely to eventually bring out their more positive side.
6. Play with your full deck. You have a wide variety of physical and verbal ways of behaving, from understated to outspoken, most of which you've lost after around fourth grade. Now you have a more narrow range of behaviors. "Play with your full deck" by using more "cards", that is more ways of reacting to others. Widen your range of behaviors to act more like the person you are with: voice level and rage, kinds and number of body motions, etc. When you are more like them, you will feel more familiar to them so you canget "in sync" and they can feel more cofortable with you and what you have to say.
7. Step outside yourself to see the situation as the other people might. In hostile situations we tend to focus on the best parts of how we are acting and the worst parts of how they are acting. This causes escalation. Presume innocence. You can't support the positive side of people by giving more negative feedback.
8. Make an instinctual habit to refer to the other person's interests first. Practice the thoughtful approach to connecting with others, "Triangle Talk" and refer to their interests first (you), then how the topic relates to your mutual interests (us) and finally, how it relates to your interests (me.) Research shows they will listen sooner, longer, remember more and assume you have a higher I.Q. than if you were to address your interests first, and then theirs.
9. Act to enable them to save face and self - correct and you will preserve the relationship. If you think they are lying, keep asking questions (until you lose control or run out of imagination) rather than accusing them of misrepresentation. Asking questions gives you the time to see if, if fact, you were mistaken, thus possibly saving face for yourself. If your suspicions prove correction, by asking questions, you are gentling inquiring rather than blaming and allowing them to acknowledge a mistake or misunderstanding and saving face. They are then more likely to correct the situation. You also leave room to escalate later if they do not acknowledge the error.
10. Honor commonalities more frequently than bringing up the differences. What ever you refer to most and most intensely will be the center of your relationship. Keep referring to the part of them and their points that you can support and want to expand upon.
11. Don't assume they readily see the picture you are presenting. Do not presume that the other person recognizes all the benefits of what you are proposing. Take time to vividly describe them in their terms.
12. Don't push to close. When considering how fast to move in suggesting a "final offer" or other form of agreement, lean towards moving slower, expecially at first. The best results, as with a Chinese meal, happen with the most time spent on advanced preparation and groundwork, so the final part goes most smoothly and quickly.
13. Have a main spokesperson. If there is more than one person representing you or your group's interests, make sure that only one person is responsible for taking the lead in discussionsand that each person know the content area and personality style they will represent.
14. Don't offer what you can't accept. Do not bluff in making an offer you cannot life with, if accepted. For example, including parts which you believe the other person would find unacceptable and not accept and then would move onto another alternative.
15. Make the same offer a different way. Do not overlook rearranging the same elements of an offer to find a more mutually attractive compromise. For example, in money, consider alternative timing and division of payments.
16. Walk your talk. Find ways to reflect your values in how you approach your work and all the people in your life. Your mission gives you your daily context and boundaries.
17. Be present. As many contests require, "You have to be present to win." Keep grounded and involved in what is happening right now, what is being said at the moment, glancing to the past and future only for context and balance.
18. Consider how you say what you say. Consider their perspective in how you make any request. For example, a priest once asked his superior if he could smoke while praying, which led to a denial of his request. Yet if he'd asked if he could pray while smoking he might have received a positive response.
19. Make and keep agreements. In an often unpredictable world, you build an "emotional deposit' of trust when your words and actions aren't contradictory. Then when you make mestakes, as you will, they have built up a level of trust to help them forgive your lapse.
20. Have a larger vision of yourself as your reference point for making daily choices. Establish your central life purpose and core values and let your actions reflect them. Your choices are much easier to make, you will inspire loyalty and attract others to act out their best side when around you.
21. Take your high road. Have a core set of values and a vision of your service and role in your life; relate your vision to your mission of your organization, your role among family and friends and your actions in reachign agreements
22. Use time, rather than letting it control you. Plan and act early to avoid last minute rushing and thinking. Do not be panicked when you have unavoidable outside time constraints. Use the time ressure to get more accomplished in less time.
23. Find fairness first. Remember it is usually more important to be -- and appear to be-- fair than well-liked. And, while not mutually exclusive, they are not always synonymous options.
24. Agree amongst yourselves first. If more than one person is involved in representing one perspective in a conflict, it is always helpful to agree on the bottom line first among yourselves; and to not mistake knowing the content to be discussed with agreeing on your common bottom line. We don't always hear the same things, even among genial colleagues. Thus your bottom line and specific approach bear repeating amongst yourselves before entering discussions with others.
25. Always show respect in your process even if you can't respect the person. If you embarrass someone while trying to reach agreement, you may never have their full attention again.
26. Recognize your blind spots and your hot buttons. When you find yourself getting angry with someone else, look to yourself before lashing out.
27. There is no single "right method." The best way to reach an agreement depends more on the situation than on a set negotiating style or method.
28. Show respect for yourself by respecting them. Even and especially when you have the upper hand, do not make a victim of the underdog.
29. Trust the power of trust over all other qualities. Being right, smart or hardworking is often no help in protecting your interests. Being trusted to act in mutual best interests is often more valuable.
30. Be a "synthesizer "leader. The person who listens longest at first, then most refers to others' points in common as a way of stating their own perspective will eventually gain the most power in a group.
31. Support their pride in how they are performing well. The more they like the way they are when they are around you, the greater the chance is that they will like you, even give you credit for things you did not do and go out of the way to help you, event to their own detriment. On the other hand, if they do not like the way they are when they are around you, they will blame you for it, more than they are consciously aware. They won't give you credit for things you did and may even sabotage projects on which you are working, even to their own detriment.
32. There is no single "right method." The best way to reach an agreement depends more on the situation than on a set negotiating style or method.
33. Make them feel safe and respected In every situation, people are guided by their fears and opportunities, their instinctual likes and dislikes. They will always respond quicker, stronger and longer to what they fear and dislike. Acknowledge and respond first to their concerns and they will be open to hearing about the opportunities.
34. Help them change. People change most easily when they believe others they respect have already done something similiar. Your third party endorsements from those other people are a credible grounding for your points.
35. Paint your biggest, best picture for others. Give people a vivid picture of all that they could have and they often won't setttle for the lesser option they originally considered.
36. Show them the positive longer view. Many seemingly foolish disagreements and negotiations are simply acting to prevent looking foolish later on. The best peacemakers work hardest to allay the other person's worries first.
37. Look for the real source of the anger. When someone is angry with you, consider that she may be upset with herself before you respond.
38. Problems seldom exist at the level at which they are discussed. When you are involved in any argument lasting more than ten minutes, ask yourself: "Are we arguing about what our disagreement is really about or is there a deeper conflict not being discussed?"
39. Aim humor at yourself. One way to release tension is to poke fun at yourself. Make reference to a situation where you did something foolish.