Do you remember these lyrics from Kenny Rogers’ song What Are We Doin’ In Love?
We’re like summer and winter
We’re not one bit alike
We’re like satin and cinders
I’m definitely not your type
Well, then what are we doin’ in love
What are we doin’ in a mess like this
What are we doin’ in love
What are we gonna tell our friends
The song is about a connection that was made, but should not have been. It happens. Hasty decisions lead to bad connections, often from relying upon subconscious emotional input more than rational thought. Jonah Lehrer, author of “How We Decide,” says that decision making is intrinsically linked to our emotions. That’s where connecting starts.
My wife and I recall an early morning near-miss we had while waiting for a flight. The airport was lightly populated, but we noticed a self-assured young lady, professionally attired, standing nearby. The silent communicators in her outward appearance indicated that she was a confident businesswoman. We were about to connect with her by engaging her in conversation when her cell phone rang. Quickly her whole persona changed, and her demeanor and her language rocked us into a state of reality that we didn’t expect. We fortunately missed that connection.
How do we balance our emotional brain with our rational brain to secure consistently good connections? The secret lies in our ability to quickly and accurately interpret the silent communication of others. If we do not develop this ability, we may find ourselves explaining to our friends what we’re doin’ in a mess like this. At the same time we also must be aware of our own silent communicators and what they are revealing about us.
Vince Clews, an award-winning video producer/director, explained to me how the mind interprets what the senses perceive. Vince explained to me that in the pre-digital days when videographers recorded on film, the action on the screen wasn’t actually continuous. The film that was created was really a series of still pictures, or frames, of the action separated by a small space between each frame. The mind filled in the spaces to help form a continuous picture. Silent communication is the space between the frames that we, sometimes even unknowingly, use to complete the picture of a conversation partner to make him a moving picture. Reading between the lines is another term for it. As we connect with a person, we are simultaneously evaluating, determining if the words we are hearing are matching the behavior we are seeing.
Our conversation partners are going through the same evaluation process of us, of course. When I was writing my second book, “Outfluence, The Better Way to Influence,” I asked my friend, Dr. Pamela Meek, about the psychology of communication. Included in the wisdom this noted psychologist shared with me was that, “Appropriate body language says you’re interested. This includes ignoring your buzzing cell phone while you are engaged in conversation with another person, keeping your body still so that you communicate that you are not distracted, leaning forward so that your conversation partner knows that you want to hear what he has to say, and looking into the speaker’s eyes, which shows that you don’t want to miss anything he says.”
Dr. Meek added this advice regarding connecting, “Think about whether your verbal and nonverbal communications match. Make sure you know how you really feel, what is best for you businesswise in the situation, and communicate that. If you don’t get what you want, then maybe you communicated poorly. You can identify the true meaning of something you communicate by analyzing the response you receive.”
Here are three silent communicators that, if you see them in others and practice them, will lead to good connection experiences.
- A memorable greeting;
- An others focus;
- A written follow-up that is energetic and thoughtful.
A memorable greeting is like the process of starting and driving a vehicle. In other words, a greeting should include contact (insert key), energy (ignition), acceleration (step on the gas pedal), and focus (steer). Contact occurs when eyeball meets eyeball. Energy is transferred in a good handshake. A sincere smile pushes the accelerator. Words focus the greeting.
An others focus is important because of what Maslow described in his hierarchy of needs. During connection you have an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the other person by filling some of needs Maslow identified, such as the needs for friendship and respect.
An energetic and thoughtful follow-up that references specifics of your connection conveys your level of interest and evidences your ability to listen and absorb. It is the next step toward building a lasting relationship.
After that comes the creation of a quiet storm of communication. I look forward to introducing this Outfluence communication concept at a future opportunity.
(Al Betz is an author and a public speaker. You can connect with him at 410-365-0742 or at email@example.com)