Wednesday, August 25, 2010
By Clive Hook
1 Practise moving your focus of attention during conversations so that you become almost a detached observer or video camera watching you and the other person talking. This means moving the focus from you and what you're concerned with to the bigger picture of what's happening in the space between you.
2 Take notice of how they engage in conversation and whether they tend to initiate things or wait for others to start. You are looking for clues as to where their focus and energy is so notice if they tend to think before speaking (an inward focus) or bounce ideas off others (an external focus)
3 Consider how they describe things and how much detail they give. Do they tend to use short phrases to just give a flavour or do they give lengthy descriptions with lots of specifics about situations? This tells you how they work with data and how they like to gather information.
4 Mentally record whether they tend to talk about things in a logical, objective way or use words and examples about feelings, values and motives. Listen particularly when they are describing a decision or choice they have made and notice whether there were personal issues considered or just logic and rationality.
5 Notice how they seem to think about time and planning. Do they seem to have a structured way of working and organising themselves or do they seem to enjoy a more spontaneous and flexible approach? There are clues in their descriptions and thoughts about future plans, projects and work deadlines
6 Use your information from the previous four areas to form pictures with keywords that describes the person you are studying or reading. Outgoing or Self-Contained? Detail Focus or Summaries? Feelings or Logic? Organised or Spontaneous? The will help you engage with them in a way that they are comfortable with.
7 Notice when you are talking versus listening and get used to doing much more of the latter. Don't jump in with a "that reminds me of" personal experience of your own. Become focussed and curious about people and build mental pictures as they speak - then ask questions about the pictures.
8 Ask questions which are about more than facts and basic data. Develop some words which you are comfortable with which ask people about what their thinking is concerning something they've just said or how they feel about a particular topic they have raised. Keep building your pictures from their answers.
9 When you have built a basic relationship with them, (you'll know because they answer your questions about their thinking and feelings) consider asking a "Why" question. These are more personal so don't be in a hurry. Your purpose here is to start understanding their values and what's important to them.
10 Keep checking your initial judgments and observations with your mental video camera switched on and notice whether there is evidence for what you guessed or assumed from the earlier conversations. Test your assumptions by asking questions or just listening to them talk to others and noticing how they are speaking.