Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What difference does five minutes make?

If the five minutes in question in the first five minutes of a conversation or meeting, it will make almost all the difference in determining whether or not you are successful in getting what you want from the encounter.

In the first five minutes, each of the people present decide:

  • What you want from the encounter
  • What attitude you will bring into the encounter
  • What your observations of the other person mean for your likelihood of success.
These three decisions now become the filter for all the information present in your encounter. You will notice expressions, attitudes or information that supports your expectations. You will likely miss information, attitudes or expressions that do not fit with your expectations. 

It's true that much of this happens much more quickly than the first five minutes. But the first five minutes gives us a unit of time that most of us can handle more comfortably consciously. We cannot always imagine that we have made up our minds in the first 3 seconds of an encounter (even if it is true). But we can entertain the possibility that the first five minutes gives us enough time to respond consciously and unconsciously in ways that set our expectations for the rest of an encounter.

Those five minutes are disproportionately important. They reward preparation. If you back up the time frame so that you prepare your attitude and your goal before you start the connection, you streamline the process and set yourself up to notice what you need to notice to get what you want.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

"Yes" sets for building agreement and manipulation

I recently watched a video of a solution-focus therapist working with a client. The clip began with a number of questions and statements with which the client would agree.  In hypnosis and sales, it's known as a "yes set."

If you're not familiar with the concept, it works roughly like Simon Says.  In that game, you get into a pattern of doing what "Simon says" so that you eventually do what the leader says even when s/he does not insert the magic words "Simon says." In the "yes set," you get used to saying yes until such a strong pattern of agreement exists that you agree with statements or instructions you might not otherwise give your agreement. The more times in a row you have said "yes," the greater the probability that you will say "yes" to the next statement.

Yes sets can be seen in two ways. The first is that you are offering someone evidence that you are observing and accepting their experience. When every statement or question elicits a "yes," it is because you have been feeding back your precise observation of what is already in the other person's experience. The therapist was using the "yes" set to build rapport by showing understanding. To do this accurately, you first have to put yourself into the shoes of the other person.

Yet it is also true that having someone say "yes" to you over and over again feels good to the person running the yes set and builds not only rapport but compliance. There is a fine line between building rapport for the sake of common ground and building rapport so that someone will go along with what you say or expect. This is especially true when the person running the "yes" set has more status or authority than the person saying "yes" - as in the case of a therapist who is "helping" a client.

The best "yes" sets are those where both people are taking turns saying "yes" and making statements. They indicate powerful shared ground and real collaboration.  If you find that only one person is saying "yes" while the other makes statements or asks questions, be more cautious. The presupposition buried under all that agreement is that one person is providing direction and the other is going along with it. That's only healthy in small doses.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Your purpose is a working hypothesis about what you are already doing and being

Imagine this. You're in your early twenties, fresh out of school and you can't find a job that will support you or interest you.  What happens next?

Now imagine: You're in your early fifties; you need an income; and whatever jobs you have had no longer support you or interest you. What happens next?

It's easy to see that people who have a clear purpose succeed: or at least, it is easy to see that successful people often seem to have a clear purpose and a plan for working in line with that purpose. Logically, this does not mean that there are not lots of people out there with a purpose who are struggling to find ways to live it. But having a purpose does seem to build both resilience and optimism, and those often lead to a better quality of life.

So where do you go to get a purpose?

Most of us settle for goals: things we can see clearly enough to work toward with a sense of possibility. Often goals are handed to us by other people: they are called targets or objectives at work or they are stages we are expected to achieve by our social circles and families. If we dig a little, we find that they are things we are doing because something outside suggested them and we decided to go along.

You are a human being. Your general purpose is to stay alive and to connect with other people. This we can assume from the way the equipment functions: your brain requires input from other human beings to develop and function optimally and your body automatically triggers behaviour that keeps you alive (like breathing and eating and moving when alarms sound).

Inside this, you have a purpose that a detective might find by studying what you do, what you value, and what you dream. Whether you know this purpose as a sense or as a sentence, it needs to satisfy the general human need to stay alive and connect, and it also needs to satisfy that part of you that is unique to you. Because much of your beliefs and behaviours are outside your conscious awareness at any given moment, your purpose is likely to feel more like a working hypothesis and less like a burning mission.

My working hypothesis this week is that my purpose is to awaken curiosity.  It's a way of thinking about what I do whether I am teaching, writing, parenting, or being a friend. I believe that curious people engage more with their world and their people, find more answers, and discover more good things in the world around them. When curiosity is awake in me, I am never stuck and when I awaken curiosity in others, I get to participate in the movement and life and good things they discover around us.  Awaken suggests living in the body, in the real world, in the presence. Curiosity suggests freedom from the limits of what is immediately true and present. I know that the discovery of beauty is also part of my purpose, and for me it is contained in that phrase "awaken curiosity" although it is hard to explain why in a few words or clear logic.

There are days when I wish for a simpler, more comfortable purpose. I would like to pursue money or status or even peace. But when I look at what I love, what I value and what I do, I don't see someone who's purpose is to pursue money or status or even peace.

What do you see when you step back and look at your own choices as if they were the choices of some famous and wonderful person who did exactly what they should have done? If that was what you believed about yourself, you would probably find patterns in your thought and actions in the way that writers find patterns in the lives of famous people.  You would probably begin to find a purpose and be a little disappointed to find that the purpose did not come with a road map.

The road map is another step. But it's not much good without a destination.  So where do you think you are going today? It's just a hypothesis and you might end up on another path.  Take a chance. Try something on and see how it fits.