Changing Your Mind:

Playing well with others

By Suzen Fiskin
Reader Columnist

Have you ever been midstream in an important conversation and had that horrible sinking feeling that it’s not going your way? It could be a meeting about a job or a sale you really need, with a banker who holds the key to your future or with a hottie you want to get lucky with on Saturday night.

Suzen Fiskin.

Suzen Fiskin.

Situations like these are never pretty, but there’s hope on the horizon if you read on!

If you’ve been following my column, you’ll know by now that over 90 percent of our thinking is below our conscious level of awareness. By getting more savvy about what’s going on beneath the surface, you can get a lot better at this communications and people stuff.

Let’s look at the flip side of that first conversation from hell. Have you ever met someone and loved them immediately? You can’t explain it, but they instantly feel like someone you’ve known all your life. What’s up with that?

If you analyze your reaction, you’ll probably discover that you’re focused on your similarities. They have two brothers, and you have two brothers. They went to Washington State, and you did, too. They sang in the choir, and . . . you catch the gist.

It’s human nature to feel most comfortable with what’s familiar, and not so much with what’s foreign. In that first uneasy dialog, odds are neither of you felt too familiar.

I’ve taught the techniques I’m about to share with you to salespeople, CEOs, teachers, kids, and Army generals on how to communicate better with others.

Here’s the deal – people like people like themselves. So the key to turning around an uneasy conversation is to get out of yourself and pay more attention to them to learn how they think. Then do what you can to be more like them.

If you’ve ever watched a smitten couple in a restaurant, you’ll notice that they mirror one another’s body language. When one leans forward, so does the other. When one takes a bite of food, their partner does, too. They’re in a state of alignment.

So, mirroring the other person’s body language is a good place to start. If they’re sitting back with their arms folded, do the same. If they take a sip of water, go for it.

The other major way you can create a bridge is with your words. People often use catch phrases that have meaning to them. It could be as trite as “The early bird gets the worm,” or as odd as one an old business associate of mine used that made me cringe: “You’ve got to walk on broken glass to be a great salesperson.” Whatever phrase they use, include it in your response.

Most folks use three primary forms of verbs – visual (looks good, picture this, shed some light); auditory (sounds right, rings true, listen to me); and kinesthetic (have a warm feeling, got a gut reaction, wrap my hands around it). Their words may be different from yours. Learn how to be flexible enough to say what you want to say in their sensory language.

It may seem contrived at first, but remember that you’ll be reaching out to them on an unconscious level and they won’t realize what’s going on. When you’re learning this stuff it can feel awkward, but it works! After a while it becomes part of your unconscious skill set.

I did a presentation on this to a large group of business managers when a gentleman asked a question in a heavy East Indian accent. When I answered him, I mirrored his accent and high pitched tonality. The audience laughed at my audacity, but the man had no idea why they were laughing. He never heard my accent because, on an unconscious level, it sounded perfectly natural to him.

I’ve gotten glowing reports for decades from people who aced job interviews, closed major deals, and gotten closer with friends and family from practicing these techniques. You can, too! It’s a good idea to practice before you really need it.

So the next time you want to turn around a conversation or make a good impression, give one or more of these ideas a go and let me know how it went.

Suzen Fiskin began her photography career as a personal photographer for Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. She currently focuses on clients doing boudoir, portraits, event and real estate photography. She had an ad agency for 10 years, and is a graphic artist, web designer and professional speaker. Suzen is also the author of “Playboy Mansion Memoirs.” [email protected] (208)572-0009

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