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This interpersonal technique will help you foster genuine connection

Your diversity efforts shouldn’t be an empty milestone from the past two years.

This interpersonal technique will help you foster genuine connection
[Illustration: FC]

We have all met someone who is an enjoyable conversationalist. Time flies, we laugh, we go deep, we bond, we discuss meaningful topics, and we grow from the encounter. Trust is built, and we are eager to talk again. Is it magic? Is it random chemistry? Or is it a formula?

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After studying the phenomena of communication for many years and practicing with thousands of people, I believe there is a formula and a sequence to it all. I call it the L.O.V.E. Method, which I will expand on later in this article.

Communication is a broad topic, so let’s just focus on one part—one-on-one conversation. Some people refer to this as the art of being a conversationalist.

I learned how important the skill is after spending years traveling the country training sales professionals on how to make cold calls. I enjoy cold calling because when we understand why it’s cold, we can warm it up easily with some minor adjustments in approach, language, and most important, personal philosophy.

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Fear of rejection

The main reason people don’t achieve more of what they want in life is the fear of rejection. It happens as well when you’re calling that big prospect who could change your career, or striking up a simple conversation with that person who caught your eye in the grocery.

Both situations create the same internal chemical whirlwind that leaves us at a loss for words and sounding like a bumbling idiot. For most people, the feared result is completely debilitating and prevents them from communicating what they actually want to say.

You create the fear

Let’s analyze why rejection is even part of the communication equation.

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Why do we feel perfectly comfortable speaking with friends at happy hour but crumble if asked to say the same thing in front of a room of people? Why can we approach a stranger in a store for directions with no problem, but if we especially like someone and want to spark up a conversation, our entire demeanor changes?  The answers to those questions are based on the fact that in one scenario we have a hidden agenda and in the other we don’t. 

What is the “hidden agenda”?

Whether is comes to networking, interviews, sales presentations, and even dating the common denominator is we all want to be liked. That is our “hidden agenda” and unconsciously drives our questions, sequencing, micro expressions, and a myriad of other cues that change the entire dynamic of the interaction.

This is the solution I’ve brainstormed: Stop trying to get people to like you and start proactively liking them. Research has proven over and over again that we like people who like us. But here is the secret: you can’t dupe the system; you actually have to like them.

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After studying the phenomena of communication for many years and practicing with thousands of people, I believe there is a formula and a sequence to it all. The L.O.V.E. method, as mentioned earlier, is:

  • Listen
  • Observe
  • Validate
  • Expand

This sounds relatively straightforward and easy. But following through on the sequential process and doing it right is tough and, as usual, takes practice. It also involves unlearning what we already know and do. Let’s break it down.

Listen

One of the biggest mistakes we make is forgetting to listen and actually hear what others are saying. When we really listen, we can formulate a better response and we have a stronger connection.

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Think about all the emotions involved, the body language, and the distractions that pull us away from being able to listen empathetically. One of the secrets to listening is the ability to clear our minds and listen without an agenda while keeping them the center of attention. We can’t expect others to listen unless we’re willing to listen first.

Observe

This includes physically observing body language, and how it matches the tone of voice as well as the other nonverbal messages someone sends when they speak.

If we don’t observe, we may miss that key clue to the real message. It could be a missed eye roll, or inflection that totally changes the message’s meaning. We should look for points of passion as well as similar likes. The place where our passions intersect will be a fun place to continue dialogue and build relationships. 

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Validate

Validation is one of the most important and often missed elements in creating that feeling of trust and being valued in conversation.

Validation is authentically reflecting back in some way what that person said that impacted us. Lean in, brighten that smile, nod the head, and show enthusiasm and excitement with words and actions.

If we omit the validation, our conversations sound like an interrogation. We also must realize that our conversations—at least in the beginning—aren’t necessarily a two-way street.

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Expand

So often conversations skip along the waterline and never go deeper. They’re superficial and fail to connect with the other person. Instead, we need to go beneath surface-level topics that do nothing to reveal who we are and what we value. We do that by learning to expand our interactions through asking the right questions, paying attention to the details, and engaging the other person.

Being proactive about finding things we like is the key component. That happens when we tap into our curiosity about people. Some things to consider:

  • What makes someone tick?
  • What do they value?
  • Why does someone do what they do?
  • What are their passions?

When we find those cues and ask expanding questions, a conversation digs deeper to find the thread that uncovers the passion.

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People say trust takes time. That isn’t always true. Trust is a formula and a process that usually takes time to play out. When we follow these steps and authentically check these boxes, trust happens faster. When we are intentional and move away from a lateral or superficial line of questioning into a much deeper one, people feel listened to and heard.

Sometimes people suck

Sometimes we come across people who aren’t very nice, and are selfish, arrogant, or even mean. When we find those people, that’s okay. We simply end the conversation and move on. In a sales environment, that’s a good thing because no one really wants to do business with someone who doesn’t share the same values. They will make life hard and refer others who are like them to you.

However, because we weren’t trying to get something from them in return, we were authentically trying to find something we liked about them. And, if they were mean, we don’t feel rejected. We just move on and count our blessings that we dodged a bullet.

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None of this is easy. It takes discipline to listen to others rather than talk about ourselves. It takes self-awareness, and it takes intentional effort. But when done effectively and with sincerity, the outcome is deeper connection and effortless conversation. The best part, over time, you’ll forget the process as it will just be who you are. A curious, humble person who take a genuine interest in people.

Try it with your parents, your kids and watch the entire relationship change. Take it to work and see how you change the culture. LOVE on your spouse or significant other and enjoy the new, richer connection.


René Rodriguez is an author, speaker, and leadership coach. He is the  author of Amplify Your Influence.

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