Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Persuasion Art and Science

We mimic one another. I've blogged about this before. We can begin to mimic each other in speech and stance. Even Malcolm Gladwell in "The Tipping Point" observes how he fell into a physical and conversational harmony with a person he was interviewing. He describes like dancing (p. 83). People react to what you do. And you react to what they do. It's a dance. It happens in our organizations.

Are we in a dance that we enjoy? Or are we mimicking behaviors that we don't like? Are others picking up vibes from us we don't want to send? Take this excerpt from a book review put out by Soundview.



One day, Rick Kirschner, author of How to Click With People, was having trouble clicking with a surly convenience store clerk. Kirschner wanted dairy creamer for his coffee, but only nondairy creamer was in sight. "I really dislike nondairy creamer. How about you?" Kirschner asked nicely. The clerk snarled that he "liked it just fine." Kirschner tried to be a little playful: "Do you have milk, cream, half-and-half — you know, anything from a cow?" "No" came the aggressive reply. Kirschner's quiet request for maybe a spoonful of ice cream in his coffee to take the edge off was met with another sharp "No."

Suddenly, Kirschner realized why he wasn't clicking. His body language was all wrong. The clerk wasn't holding a coffee, wasn't smiling, wasn't being playful. Kirschner set down his coffee, crossed his arms and asked the clerk: "Is this something I did, or are you just having a rough day?" Immediately, the clerk began telling Kirschner how the night shift had left a huge mess for him, how he had spent hours cleaning the store and how his back was killing him. The clerk paused, then asked, "What flavor?"

Kirschner was able to make a connection with the unhappy clerk through the use of what he calls "blending": finding patterns of similarity with other people. People connect, or "click," when they have a sense that, in some way, the other person "is like me." Blending is often a subtle adaptation in posture, gesture, tone, space (how much personal space a person needs) that can go a long way to breaking down barriers between people.

If we want to create progress in our companies, we need to connect. They need to connect with us. We need to connect with them. Look for the barriers, and take steps to find ways to click.

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