I have spent the last couple of weeks reading a lot of literature about techniques for influence and persuasion. For me, this is an absolutely fascinating topic, with so many wildly different opinions on it. Ranging from social and cognitive psychologists, to sales people, to absolute Muppets promising gold and delivering dung, there is not much I have not read. Yet, in all these books, there is one idea lacking, that is actually one of the most powerful and easy things to do….
I have been studying various different tools for change for some time now. Among those, is NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming. NLP is not only a set of tools, it is a whole mind set, and as such I have incorporated a lot of it into my approach. Yet, one aspect that never really sat right with me was that in NLP you don’t really look at the “problems”, you only look for a way out. Surely, there must be some use in our problems, or? And indeed, there is: Motivation!
A couple of days ago I was talking to a friend on the phone. As funny as it might sound, she complained about complaining too much, and that this sometimes destroys the rapport she has with people. Paracelus said that quantity makes poison, and as such anything is bad that is done too much. However, complaining in and by itself is a useful thing. So I told her that I thought that was great, and that if I ever wrote a book, I would send it to her. She laughed, and asked why?
Mokugen was never known to smile until his last day on earth. When his time came to pass away he said to his faithful ones: “You have studied under me for more than ten years. Show me your real interpretation of Zen. Whoever expresses this most clearly shall be my successor and receive my robe and bowl.”
Everyone watched Mokugen’s severe face, but no one answered.
Encho, a disciple who had been with his teacher for a long time, moved near the bedside. He pushed forward the medicine cup a few inches. That was his answer to the command.
The teacher’s face became even more severe. “Is that all you understand?” he asked.Encho reached out and moved the cup back again. A beautiful smile broke over the features of Mokugen. “You rascal,” he told Encho. “You worked with me ten years and have not yet seen my whole body. Take the robe and bowl. They belong to you.”
“Judge others by their questions rather than by their answers.”
What makes a good communicator? What makes a person innovative? What makes a good change facilitator? To all these, my personal answer is: good questions! We have been taught in school for many (maybe far too many) years, and spoon fed the knowledge we needed at the time to pass the courses, yet from a that I have to say that very little managed to stick in my mind. What did stick are the rare occasions when a teacher suddenly asked a question that required me to dig deep inside me for an answer. Questions in general, force the person you are talking to to actively participate in finding meaning and making meaning, even more so than just telling stories or giving advice. So then, what are these good questions?
Meeting someone new, we all start off with the regular small talk, asking about many general things, among them the job. When it comes to that, I usually look deeply and meaningfully into the persons eyes and say:”I am a hypnotist”. The reactions from people are nothing short of priceless. Many times there is a look of fear on their face, followed by something to the extent of:”ooh, then don’t look into my eyes…”. While this is an amusing episode, it does show that we have been influenced by television and movies to think about hypnosis as something dangerous and potentially damaging for us. Yet, the truth is, we all hypnotize each other all the time.
Inspired by Desmond Morris´s book “People watching”, I like to spend time sitting on benches or in coffee shops to observe human interaction, and it is truly fascinating. Some people perform a true dance of being in sync, their movements match, their breathing is the same, and their body language displays similar movements , whereas others show completely different breathing and movement. Sometimes I am even close enough to hear the words of the conversation, and can then see how the relationship suffers from the other person “para phrasing” what was said. At the end, what I see and experience here is the unconscious power of rapport.