Sheri L. Dew
Having influence is not about elevating self, but about lifting others.
The Keys to Developing Influence
Becoming a person of influence has very little to do with the strength of your sales, negotiation or persuasive abilities. In fact, in some circumstances, it’s not so much what you do, but rather what you refrain from saying or doing that has the greatest impact on your social interactions with others. And it is this seemingly insignificant difference that helps you establish deep levels of rapport with the people in your life — strengthening your character and enhancing your ability to gently influence others to your way of thinking.
Within this article, we will specifically focus on the development of effective communication, listening and rapport creation habits that will enable you to become an extraordinarily influential force in other people’s lives.
We will look at the fundamental rapport building strategies that will help you gain deep admiration and respect from the people in your life. We will also break down the habits of effective listening and the barriers that might stand in your way. And we will conclude our discussion by exploring the fundamental principles of vocal control and the communication strategies you must incorporate into your interactions with others that will help you become a person of influence.
Building Rapport from the Ground Up
Within this section, we will delve into fundamental rapport building strategies that will help you gain deep admiration and respect from the people in your life.
Rapport Strengthening Strategies
Our ability to develop deep levels of rapport with others may very well be the most essential and critical social survival skill we have at our disposal. Not only does it help to build trust, honor, and respect, it also enables us to delve into the minds of those we interact with and pierce into their deepest thoughts, emotions, and feelings that make up the building blocks of their personality.
Within this section, we will explore a whole plethora of rapport building strategies you can immediately incorporate into your interactions with others. Keep in mind, that this is by no means a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point from which we can grow and expand our ability to relate to others at deep psychological levels of awareness.
As you read through each of these points, ask yourself how you can immediately apply this knowledge to your daily interactions with others.
Did you know, that the greater capacity you have to cultivate these behaviors into your habitual patterns of thinking and acting, then the more likely you are to create deep and long-lasting relationships with those who at times may seem closed-off and distant from your influence? Moreover, the greater the rapport you are able to establish with other people, then the more powerful of an influential force you will become in their lives.
What to Do
The following set of guidelines presents you with some simple yet very effective strategies that will assist you to create deep levels of rapport with other people. Keep in mind, that the greater the level of rapport you are able to develop with another person, then the more likely you are to influence them to your way of thinking and looking at a situation.
Admit to Personal Mistakes
People secretly despise those who will not admit to their own personal mistakes.
Many people believe that admitting one’s mistakes will label them as being incompetent and unworthy of their role or status. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Mistakes are actually the seeds of evolution and change, without which we wouldn’t grow and learn from our life experiences. In fact, the entire history of our human species has been built upon the foundation of mistakes, without which civilization would not be possible.
When it comes to mistakes, it’s all about perspective; it’s all about how you look at the situation, and how you explain the lessons you have learned to others. The bottom line is, other people don’t want to be around those who are simply incapable of admitting when they are wrong. They have very little respect for these types of people. And where there is no respect, there is simply no room for influence.
Admit Errors in Thinking
People will intuitively trust a human being more so than a computerized machine that is incapable of making errors. This is mainly due to the emotional connection and bond that we are able to build with other people. It is in fact within these emotional bonds that the origins of your influential powers lie.
Errors in thinking are basically any assumptions you have made and premature conclusions you have drawn that have proven to be incorrect. In many instances, these assumptions may only be known to you.
To admit these minor errors in thinking you must displays to other people three important things:
• That you are not perfect.
• That you are just like them (imperfect).
• That you have trusting emotional human qualities.
This by itself will build deep levels of rapport between you and the other person at a mostly unconscious level of awareness.
Ignore People’s Minor Social Mishaps
We have already clarified that we are not perfect. This, therefore, would suggest that nobody else is perfect either. For this very reason we must be tolerant and understanding of people’s weaknesses and social mishaps.
The absolutely worst thing that anyone can do to destroy a certain level of trust and rapport with another person, is to tell them that they are wrong or that they made a mistake in front of others.
People are never going to do the right thing every time. For this reason, we must give them leeway, forgive their minor social mishaps, and even be there to protect them from possible social embarrassment by providing them with a quick escape route from the situation with their dignity intact.
Use People’s Names
From the youngest age, we are conditioned to respond to our names swiftly and consistently. Our name is very much like a magnet that draws our attention and creates anticipation for the words the follow.
All of us have been psychologically conditioned to the sound of our name since the moment we came into this world.
In most instances, our name brings us great pleasure because it acknowledges our uniqueness and sense of self. And it is this craving for appreciation that we long for on a daily basis. We must therefore never deny others the sound of their name presented to them with a pleasant smile and tone of voice. It is after all the sweetest sound of all and will help you build deep levels of rapport with other people.
As a word of warning, remember that moderation is the key, and too much of a good thing will harm you in the end.
Smile Sincerely and Often
When a newborn baby comes into this world, a smile is nothing more than an automatic response that brings great pleasure and satisfaction into their lives. However, as we grow older and wiser, we begin to recognize that when our parents smile it means that they approve of us, that they care and appreciate who we are and what we do. We read these signals with keen eyes, and we smile in return, giving back the same love and appreciation we received.
As adults, we continue to seek the same appreciation we received from our parents long ago. When others give us a sincere smile, it makes us feel good, comfortable and secure in their presence. And it is these factors that help build deep levels of rapport between you and the people gifted with your smiles.
A smile is nature’s best antidote for discouragement.
It brings rest to the weary,
Sunshine to those who are frowning,
And hope to those who are hopeless and defeated.
A smile is so valuable that it can’t be bought,
Begged, borrowed, or taken away against your will.
You have to be willing to give a smile away
Before it can do anyone else any good.
So if someone is too tired or grumpy to flash you a smile,
Let him have one of yours anyway.
Nobody needs a smile as much
As the person who has none to give.
For a detailed summary of the principles presented within Dale Carnegie’s book, please download the free IQ Matrix: How to Win Friends.
See the Other Person’s Point of View
It is so very easy to become lost in our own thoughts and perspectives, that often we simply fail to see things from the other person’s point of view.
Our opinion is after all only one side of the coin. We have not gone through the other person’s thoughts, emotions, experiences and the like, and therefore find it difficult to see another perspective that is separated from our own.
Even though seeing another person’s point of view may seem difficult at first, it is not impossible. It just requires a simple shift in perspective and some clever questioning that will enable you to unlock another person’s thoughts, emotions, and outlook on the situation.
You don’t necessarily have to agree with the other person, all that is required is that you show that you understand them with a respectful open mind. This will likewise reveal to them that you share a set of common beliefs and values, which will enable you to develop deep levels of rapport.
Arouse People’s Eager Wants
Everyone wants something, whether they admit it or not. Your objective is to identify these wants and arouse the person’s desire to bring these wants to fruition.
Show another person how you can help them get what they want with less hassle and as little inconvenience as possible. In this way, you will develop an energy of intrigue, curiosity and will have greater influence over the other person’s decisions and actions.
Fulfill People’s Lacking Needs
There is a clear distinction between what people want and what they need. Every person has certain and specific needs that they seek to satisfy on a daily basis. The fulfillment of these needs is critical to their continued functioning as a productive human being.
Your goal is to first identify a person’s lacking needs, after which you must determine how to go about helping this person fulfill these needs in a way that fits their personal model of the world and is consistent with their psychological makeup.
Accept People without Condition
People want to belong, they seek the approval of others, and want to be liked despite their shortcomings or weaknesses. They also want others to accept them for who they are without conditions.
It is the people who accept others without strings attached that gain their deepest trust, loyalty, and support, and become the rocks that influence their daily thoughts, habits, behaviors, and actions.
Become Genuinely Interested in People
There is no denying that the most interesting subject that keeps a person fascinated and intrigued all day long, has got their name written all over it. And it is this topic, more than any other subject that will win this person over to your way of thinking.
For this very reason, it is critical that you become genuinely interested in other people. Ask them questions about what they like, where they’ve been, what they do, about who they love, etc. Most people can talk about themselves all day long without ever getting tired. And when everything is said and done, they will tell you how wonderful and fascinating you have been.
When you become genuinely interested in another person they will naturally grow in appreciation and admiration for you. And this will only help you to become a greater influential force in their lives.
Give People Honest and Sincere Appreciation
Whenever possible give other people honest and sincere appreciation for their time, energy, help, thoughtfulness, and company. This will show people that you genuinely care about them, and it will thusly enable you to develop deeper levels of rapport and influence over their lives.
Acknowledge People’s Ideas and Accomplishments
Whenever possible acknowledge people’s accomplishments, abilities, desires, potential, and ideas.
We all do things — to one degree or another — because we seek to be acknowledged for our skills and abilities by others. This acknowledgment breeds confidence and high levels of self-esteem, which enables us to sour to higher grounds and achieve that which was previously out of reach.
When you get into the habit of consistently and openly acknowledging others for their achievements and ideas, you will awaken a deep sense of confidence in people that they will reflect back onto you, thusly building deeper levels of rapport and respect.
Make People Feel Important, Respected and Admired
We all seek to feel significant, important and in some ways unique and superior when compared with others. These feelings of admiration propel us forward to ever greater heights. And it is those people who trigger these powerful feelings within us, who receive our deepest respect and admiration in return.
What Not to Do
Within the previous section, we discussed some fundamental guidelines that will enable you to develop deep levels of rapport as you interact with other people. The discussion that follows will break-down the opposite side of the coin by presenting you with half a dozen ways you could potentially break the rapport you have been working so very hard to create.
It is important not to take these points lightly. After all, it is far easier to break the rapport you created with another person, then it is to build it up in the first place.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
There is nothing that will break the rapport you created with another person faster than the simple act of not keeping the promises you make.
When we make a promise to another person, they immediately create a set of expectations in their mind, upon which rests our integrity and goodwill.
At the very moment when the promise is made, an invisible bond is created between the two of you. This bond is however only as strong as your word. So if for one reason or another you do not stand true to your word, then this will consequently cut the ties that bind you, and break any rapport you created or influence you had over this person’s emotional decisions and actions.
The general rule is to simply not make any promises that you can’t keep. This even applies to small and seemingly insignificant things such as telling another person that you will call them in the morning. If morning passes and you have not called them, then this sends a message of doubt, and you automatically lose the power of influence.
On the other hand, how about telling a person that you will call them at 10 am tomorrow morning. The next morning comes around, and like clockwork, they receive a call from you at 10 am. What kind of message does this send to the other person? Have a really good think about it… because the answer may profoundly transform your life and how you relate to others.
Don’t Flatter People
Most people are not naive for very long. They will read you like a book the moment you try and flatter your way into their hearts. This will naturally lead to trust issues that will immediately rip the bonds of rapport you have worked so hard to create.
Don’t Play Favorites with People
People always compare themselves with others, seeking to continuously distinguish themselves in some way, shape or form. This is all well and good, up until the moment you do the comparing for them and begin playing favorites.
Playing favorites may work for a short period of time, as long as nobody else finds out who you secretly like the most. However, when the cat is let out of the bag, the rapport you have been working so hard to maintain, will simply disappear as quickly as the mouse.
Don’t Play a Victim to Gain Sympathy
People generally don’t appreciate the company of those who purposefully do things in order to gain sympathy from others. These people are very often despised and looked down upon and it is certainly a very ineffective means of building high levels of rapport. Yes, it may work initially to some extent, however, in the long-run, it is like a time-bomb, just waiting to go off without a moment’s notice.
Don’t Be a Know-it-All
When you come across in conversation as a know-it-all, people will see you as being an Egotistical Brainiac who makes them feel worthless and insignificant.
It is important to allow people to shine, to show their true colors, skills, knowledge, and talents, and not to steal this spotlight away from them.
When you come across as a know-it-all, there is simply no room for anyone else in the picture, and you consequently lose all hope of building deep levels of rapport with others.
Don’t Argue Unnecessarily
Some people argue because they have a deep conviction of what is right and wrong. Other people argue because they simply enjoy the emotional rush that the spirit of argument brings forth into every cell of their body. Some people would call this rudeness, while others would beg to differ and see it as a healthy sign of assertiveness.
There is no denying that being assertive is an important skill that is an essential part of a healthy personality. However, there are many situations where it really doesn’t matter whether we are seen as being right or wrong. During such times, it is important to think about the long-term goals of your relationship with this other person, and the potential consequences that may ensue if an argument threatens its stability.
Would I rather be right? Or do I prefer to build deep levels of rapport?
Mirroring and Matching Tactics
Another very effective means of developing deep levels of rapport with other people is to mirror and match aspects of their life and behavior.
By mirroring and matching another person, you are subconsciously telling them that you are just like them — having the same beliefs, values, and opinions. This consequently opens us the channels of communication, trust, respect and the like.
Let’s briefly take a look at some of the key aspects of mirror and matching in a little more detail.
Mirror People’s Handshake
People will often decide if they like you or not within the first 30 seconds of meeting you. During this time they size up the geography of your face, the way you are dressed, how you talk, smell, present yourself, the amount of eye contact (or lack of it) you give, and maybe most importantly the quality of your handshake.
The quality of a person’s handshake says a lot about their personal character and the fundamental aspects of their behavior. Even though we will not discuss the psychological aspects of a handshake here, it is, however, important to remember to mirror and match the intensity, grip, and strength of the other person’s handshake upon meeting them for the first time.
Because a handshake is a reflection of a person’s psychological makeup, your handshake will show them that you are very much the same on a psychological level of awareness.
Seek to Establish Similarity
Your primary goal when mirroring and matching another person is to establish similarity in as many ways as possible. The more similarity you can establish between the two of you, then the greater level of rapport you will effectively create, and the more trust, respect, and honor will be established.
Match Patterns of Behavior, Thinking and Speaking
Mirror and match how a person speaks. This includes their tone of voice, intensity, speed, and the words and phrases they consistently use.
How a person behaves can also be mirrored.
Pay attention to their habitual patterns of movement that they make when they talk about a variety of topics. These movements will likewise provide you with an insight into their mind and patterns of thinking. You may actually find that by using their words, phrases, and movements, that you will begin to think like them, and will, therefore, be in a better position to predict their future decisions and actions.
Match Personal Beliefs, Values and Opinions
Pay careful attention to the words a person speaks, their interests, likes, dislikes, fears, problems, and the accompanying behaviors they make when discussing aspects of their life. All of these will provide you with an insight into their dominant beliefs, values, and opinions that govern their daily behavior.
Once identified, simply reflect back these same beliefs, values, and opinions to show the other person that you are just like them in multi-dimensional ways.
Matching a person’s physiology can help you establish deep levels of rapport very quickly, enabling you to gather better insights into the other person’s mind and patterns of thinking.
Mirror the following characteristics of another person’s physiology:
• Overall levels of energy
• Body gestures
• Facial expressions
Match Appearance in Clothing and Grooming
Our clothes distinguish us from other people, they give life and character and help connect us with groups of like-minded individuals who share the same qualities and interests. In many ways, our clothes are a means of identifying with the world and connecting with people who see the world from our perspective. For this very reason, we must make an effort to match a person’s general appearance and clothing. This will effectively break-down the barriers of communication and allow us to enter the inner-circle of this person’s social life.
Match Education and Lifestyle
Most people tend not to relate well with those who differ in education or lifestyle. For this reason, we must make an effort to show another person that their lifestyle and level of education is to one degree or another reflected within us.
Lifestyle could include the clubs or organizations that the other person belongs to, their hobbies, interests, or even the places where they like to relax.
Education could include the types of knowledge or skills they have acquired, the books they read and the magazine or journals they subscribe to.
If you are able to find areas of similarity here, then you will effectively show the other person that you are of the same blood, and this will thusly help you establish deeper levels of rapport and influence over their lives.
The Fundamentals of Effective Listening
Within this section, we will break down the habits of effective listening and identify the basic principles of listening and the barriers that often prevent open and unbiased communication.
Effective listeners follow the 70/30 rule. They listen for 70% of the time and talk for only 30% of the time. They also cultivate the habit of asking effective questions that enable them to dig deeper into the meaning and motives behind the words that the other person speaks.
Below is a list of typical questions that will enable you to better clarify what the other person is saying. The key is to memorize these questions and continuously cycle through them in your mind as the other person speaks.
What is this person trying to tell me?
How do I feel about this?
How do they expect me to react?
Why are they telling me this?
What are their motivations?
The Principles of Effective Listening
Effective listening doesn’t simply involve hearing the words that are being expressed. It is a far more refined skill, that requires patience and discipline to cultivate and master.
What follows is a list of key guidelines and strategies that will enable you to cultivate the necessary habits and behaviors of effective and proficient listeners.
For more information about developing these skills, please take a look at life coaching principles.
As an effective listener, you must work on expanding your awareness and ability to recognize certain patterns of behavior that will enable you to gain deeper insights into a person’s message and its underlying meaning.
Here are two areas you should be paying particular attention to:
A person’s body language will often reveal a plethora of information about the thoughts and emotions that are hiding behind the words they speak. This can unlock unexpected insights, motivations, and motives that will enable you to derive deeper levels of meaning into their message.
Particularly pay attention to their body language in between the words they speak (during pauses). This may help reveal hints about their thought process and enable you to better understand their needs and wants.
Patterns of Speech
It is said, that it’s not so much the words we speak, but rather how we express ourselves, from which the meaning of our message is derived. For this very reason you must attend to the following key variables:
• Silences between the words.
• Word emphasis and spacing.
• Voice level and intensity.
Each one of these variables will provide you with a world of new insights about the other person that would normally be hidden from conscious view.
What to Do
When it comes to effective listening, there are certain and specific habits that if cultivated, will enhance your concentration, ability to understand, while at the same time enabling you to dig deep into the psychology of another person and unlocking the hidden meaning behind their words.
Subdue Your Inner Voice
Our inner voice could very well be the greatest hindrance to our understanding of another person’s message. The reason for this is three-fold: we formulate an answer, reach a conclusion, or begin to judge the words that another person is speaking before they are finished getting their message across. For obvious reasons, this impedes our understanding of the message and damages the rapport we have worked so hard to create.
The solution is to progressively quieten the voice inside your mind by focusing your energy and attention outwards onto the other person and the intricacies of the message they are trying to get across to you.
Create Mental Pictures of Information
Our memory is most efficient when it is thinking in pictures. And this is most evident when we are completely absorbed in a conversation with another person. During these moments, we are able to recall a conversation effortlessly because the entire time our brain was formulating a series of pictures creating a memorable storyboard that was easy to remember.
Conversely, when we are bored, our brain tends to drift and fall asleep. Spectacular wonderful pictures about other aspects of our life are envisioned, and as a result, very little is remembered about the conversation.
The solution is to progressively turn another person’s words into associating pictures in your mind. In this way, you will be better able to remember and recall the intricacies and details of their message.
Put Information into Perspective
As you listen to the content of another person’s message, it is important to put this information into perspective accordingly, otherwise, you may miss the underlying meaning of the message, which could cause confusion and create misunderstandings. As a consequence, this may very well break the rapport you have created with the other person and damage your long-term relationship.
The solution is to take into account some key variables that can impact and influence the message that the other person is trying to get across to you.
A social setting can influence and impact the message that the speaker is trying to get across to you. In some instances, certain social settings may prevent them from speaking freely, while other social settings allow them to open up and say what’s on their mind. An effective listener takes these possibilities into account and interprets the speaker’s message accordingly.
Speaker’s Cultural Background
A speaker’s cultural background and associating beliefs may influence the content, intentions, and motivations behind their message.
An effective listener fully understands that the same message relayed from a different cultural perspective can differ in meaning quite significantly. They, therefore, take this into account when interpreting the content and intentions of the speaker’s words.
People will say and do things in accordance with their dominant state and emotional frame-of-mind.
When someone is upset they may say and do things that are normally not part of their everyday behavior. Conversely, the same applies when a person is overly happy, excited or enthusiastic. In such instances, they will say and do things that may not represent their true intentions.
An effective listener realizes that how a person is emotionally will influence the meaning of their message. They, therefore, take the other person’s emotional state and intentions into account throughout their interpretations.
Speaker’s Life Experience
Every one of us has had a unique life experience to date. This experience has probably been filled with many disappointments and triumphs. Consequently, we have learned great lessons that have made us who we are today — providing us with a unique perspective on life, the world, and on our communication with others.
An effective listener understands that they must interpret another person’s message in accordance with their life experience, learnings, and current circumstances. They fully realize that a person’s perspective and message is tinged with echoes of the wisdom, learnings, mistakes, and obstacles they have faced, failed at, and overcome, over the course of a lifetime.
The Influence of Peers
The presence of other people can significantly influence the message and information that another person is trying to get across.
At times we will refrain from saying certain things or acting in a specific way because we are concerned that others may overhear us. For this very reason, an effective listener takes the influence of other people into account when interpreting the message of the person they are listening to. They carefully observe this person’s body language and eye movements in order to pinpoint where their attention is going, and they adjust their responses and analysis of the message accordingly.
Sort Facts from Fiction
It is very easy to become emotionally drawn into a conversation, that we simply lose all scope of reality and don’t distinguish the facts from the fictitious information we are hearing.
People are emotional creatures, and as such, they will always be tempted to bend the truth or tell a few white lies here and there. It is your job as an effective listener to distinguish between these fragments of information and question the person accordingly.
Unless you are able to get to the facts, then you simply will not acquire a comprehensive understanding of the message you are hearing.
Listen to Emotional Content of Message
The words we speak are nothing more than labels and interpretations of our hidden emotional experiences and intentions. However, unless we see them from this perspective, we will never fully realize their significance or uncover their underlying meaning.
An effective listener understands that it is not so much the words, but rather the emotional undertones behind the words that are significant to the message the speaker is trying to get across.
In order to identify these emotions, an effective listener must observe the speaker’s body language, demeanor, facial gestures, eye movements, and subtle biological signals as a whole. These provide hints of the underlying emotional undertones that lie hidden within their speech.
Summarize by Prioritizing Ideas
As you listen to another person speak, take time to routinely summarize what they have discussed in your mind, while at the same time prioritizing major ideas and points for further discussion.
Paraphrase by Seeking Understanding
Occasionally while the speaker is conversing with you, take time to gain clarification and understanding of their message by paraphrasing what they have just said. This will show the other person that you are paying attention and listening to their message. Likewise, it signifies that you consider what they are saying as being relevant and important, which helps build great respect and enhances the level of rapport within the relationship.
Also, when paraphrasing another person’s message, take time to interpret what they have said in your own words.
Once you have completed your summary, simply ask the speaker if you have understood them correctly. In this way, you will minimize any confusion, assumptions, or incorrect conclusions that you may have made while listening to their message.
Encouragers are simple affirmative words you can use throughout the process of listening. These encouragers inform the speaker that you are listening to them and that you have understood the message they are trying to get across to you.
Typical encouragers include:
Yes… Aha… Okay… I see… Oh… I understand… Tell me more… That’s interesting…
Use Good Eye Contact
Good eye contact shows the speaker that you have their attention, and are interested in what they are saying. It also enables you to focus in on the message and the accompanying subtle signals that will help you unlock the speaker’s true motives and emotional intentions.
As a word of warning, remember that too much of a good thing can lead to very undesirable consequences. You must, therefore, moderate your eye-contact accordingly in response to the person’s eye-contact and speech.
Use Expressive and Open Body Language
As you listen to the speaker’s message, attend to your body language. Make sure that it is open, welcoming and expressive — encouraging and supporting the speaker’s ideas and opinion. In this way, you will develop higher levels of rapport and will thusly have greater influence over the speaker’s future decisions and actions.
Wait Two Seconds Before Replying
Sometimes we are just too quick to jump-the-gun, and end up interrupting someone who hadn’t yet exhausted their train of thought.
In many instances, the speaker will pause for a moment to take a breath or gather their thoughts, and we will jump right in to say what’s on our mind.
Effective listeners clearly understand this trap and therefore wait two to three seconds before replying. They want to learn as much about the speaker’s message as possible, and will, therefore, take time to hear them out fully before stating their own opinion or asking further questions.
What Not to Do
There are several unfortunate communication habits that will immediately break the rapport you have established with another person. One slip-up occasionally can be forgiven. However, if you consistently partake in the following communication sins, then you are surely losing the respect and admiration of those you interact with.
Don’t Interrupt Speaker
Almost nothing frustrates a speaker more than being interrupted by another person in the middle of a sentence.
It doesn’t matter how wonderful the information is that you are about to share. Just hold your tongue for the moment, cultivate the effective listening habits discussed above, and let the speaker exhaust their train of thought.
Only once the speaker is silent, should you respond in turn.
Don’t Finish People’s Sentences
The one thing in the world that probably frustrates a speaker more than someone who continuously interrupts them, is a person who consistently finishes their sentences.
Yes, you might be showing the speaker how clever you are by being able to predict their train of thought. However, on the flip-side, you are also sending the message of superiority and control that will inevitably break any rapport you have created with this person.
There are however instances where finishing off another person’s sentences can build deeper levels of rapport. Although these scenarios often only occur between good friends or romantic partners.
Don’t Make Assumptions
We often rush to make unruly assumptions based on the limited amount of information we have collected throughout our interactions with others.
Instead of assuming that what we have heard is true or false, simply ask the speaker a set of probing questions that help unveil the mask of mystery.
Don’t Become Critical or Judgmental
Who are we to criticize or judge another person’s ideas or perspectives? Isn’t all information and knowledge just an opinion of our senses and calculations? Have these opinions not changed over time from generation to generation, and from one century to the next? If you have responded to these questions honestly, then you already have your answer.
You don’t necessarily have to agree with another person’s perspective, however, be tolerant and understand that it is what it is, just a perspective.
As a final thought, we must remember that it is our internal judgments and criticisms that will create the impenetrable barriers that will block the channels of understanding, rapport, and communication.
Barriers to Effective Listening
Becoming an effective listener requires the ability to cultivate and grow a set of fundamental skills that will open the channels of communication and promote greater understanding. On top of this, it also requires a deep awareness of the obstacles, challenges and barriers that may impede the speaker’s message from getting through in the first place. And this is going to be the focus of this discussion.
Content of Message
The 1st barrier to effective listening lies in the content of the message itself.
If the speaker’s message is difficult to understand, unfamiliar, or simply isn’t of interest, then this will significantly impede the message from getting through to the listener.
The solution is to ask a whole plethora of open-ended questions that will help you gain deeper insights and understandings into the topic under discussion.
Speaker and Listener Psychology
The 2nd barrier to effective listening is hidden in the psychology of the speaker and listener.
At times the speaker and listener can be so vastly different from a psychological perspective that the message will simply be misunderstood, wrongly interpreted, or even lost completely.
In other scenarios, the speaker may impede the listener’s ability to hear with an unfortunate habit of movement or speech that distracts the listener from the content of the message.
The solution is to work on developing deep levels of rapport and finding common ground that will enable you to open the channels of communication.
The 3rd barrier to effective listening is the environment.
An environment can be too noisy, hot, cold, bright, uncomfortable, wet, windy, stuffy or polluted. This environment will thusly manifest a whole plethora of distractions that will impede the message from getting through in its intended form.
The solution is to simply find an environment that has as few sensory distractions as possible.
On the outside, it appears that the words we hear another person speak just simply pass through our eardrums and into conscious awareness. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Everything that we hear actually passes through a set of psychological filters that we have cultivated over a lifetime.
Each of these filters re-interprets the message to ensure that it is consistent with our deepest wants, desires, motives and our overall psychological makeup. It is this psychological makeup that determines how we interpret our world and the messages that people send our way.
Now that we are consciously aware of our psychological filters, let’s now take a journey through the message of a speaker as it travels through our filters of interpretation.
As you read through this section, keep in mind that the speaker’s message doesn’t necessarily pass through each filter in chronological order. Instead, it passes through all filters at more or less the same time in very quick succession (we are talking fractions of a second). In the end, it is the most dominant filters that will determine how the speaker’s message will be interpreted.
Filter 1: Ear
Here the speaker’s message (words) pass through our eardrums, where they begin their long journey towards interpretation.
All things being equal, we should be able to hear the entire message that the speaker is getting across to us. However, this is rarely the case due to the three barriers to effective listening we discussed above.
Filter 2: Selection
Next, the message passes through our selection filter. The selection filter directs our focus and attention while interacting with others.
If for instance we are momentarily distracted by other sensory stimuli while hearing the message of the speaker, then these words will naturally be re-interpreted and transformed ever so slightly — mirroring the stimuli that originally distracted us.
Filter 3: Culture and Social Class
The message now passes through the cultural and social-class filter. This filter is riddled with biased opinions and perspectives that are a reflection of a lifetime of social conditioning.
At this point, the message is re-interpreted to ensure that it fits in with our perception of social reality.
Filter 4: Personal Values
The message now sinks even deeper into the values filter.
Our values are nothing more than emotional interpretations and labels for our experiences. We value that, which we consider to be important and worthy of our lives. We will, therefore, interpret the speaker’s message in accordance with our highest set of values.
If for instance, our highest value is to be loved, then we will consequently interpret the speaker’s message from a perspective of love. If on the other hand, we value security above all else, then we will effectively interpret the speaker’s message from the perspective of security.
Each of these values is significant and will ever so slightly alter the message of the speaker to ensure that it fits with what we value most in this world.
Filter 5: Beliefs
Next, the speaker’s message passes through our belief filter. This filter is riddled with deep conviction about the world, ourselves, society and other people. It is tinged with biased perspectives, self-limitations, and emotional assumptions.
Anything we hear that simply does not fit in with our beliefs and convictions, we automatically reject at an unconscious level of awareness. This consequently prevents us from interpreting the speaker’s message in the right context.
Filter 6: Emotions
Every moment of our day, we experience certain types of emotions that naturally affect our state-of-mind and how we interpret information coming from the external environment. Hence, the speaker’s message will be re-interpreted in accordance with the current emotional state we are experiencing.
If for instance we are feeling joyful and fulfilled, then we will interpret the speaker’s message in a positive way. If on the other hand, we are displaying the emotions of anger or frustration, then we will naturally interpret the speaker’s message in a completely different way.
Filter 7: Personal Attitude
The personal attitude we bring into any interaction with another person, is simply a reflection of recent events, emotions, and our personal experiences. And it is this attitude that will significantly influence how you interpret the speaker’s message.
Your attitude will either block you from understanding the true intentions of the speaker’s message, or it will open up new doors of insight and realization.
Filter 8: Personal Decisions
Next, the speaker’s message passes through our decision filter. This filter is deeply entrenched in the habit of maintaining consistency.
If the speaker’s message does not seem to be consistent with your past choices and decisions, then you will subconsciously reject the message and interpret it accordingly. Because in this scenario the speaker’s message is taken out of context, this can very easily lead to disagreement and misunderstanding.
Filter 9: Memory
The final filter is our capacity to remember the message of the speaker.
If we are unable to recall the message that was shared with us in full, then this by itself can lead to misunderstandings and a plethora of incorrect interpretations.
This actually occurs quite often, due to the persistent influence of the other filters and their capacity to unconsciously delete portions of the speaker’s message and replace these portions with personal biased opinions.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
Is it really any wonder that only 25% of the speaker’s message and true intentions are clearly understood by the listener?
The best way to work your way through these filters is to become aware that they exist in the first place. It is after all, only through conscious awareness, that you will develop the capacity to think more effectively and maintain a semblance of control over the influence that these filters have on your interactions with others.
There are six typical stages of listening that reflect our level of proficiency and expertise as an effective listener. Each stage requires a different set of skills and a certain level of concentration and awareness.
If you take the time to incorporate everything we have discussed thus far into your interactions with others, then you will progressively climb the ladder and achieve the status of a Master Listener in very quick succession. 🙂
As we go through each of these listening stages, identify where you personally lie on the effective listener scale.
Stage 1: Glazed Eyes
At this stage the listener is listening to the message of the speaker, however, they are not hearing the words or making any sense of the message. They are in essence floating around in their own imaginary world, easily distracted by other stimuli, overwhelmed by their own inner voice, and really couldn’t care less about the message that the speaker is trying to get across to them.
Stage 2: Automatic Response
At this stage, the listener is vaguely paying attention to the message of the speaker. They pick up on a few words here and there and respond in turn. However, their responses require very little thought and are often automatically generated empty words that have no real purpose or meaning.
Listener’s at this stage often interrupt the speaker while they are talking, while at the same time secretly judging and criticizing their message. This essentially prevents them from gaining a deeper understanding of the message that is being shared.
Stage 3: Can Answer Questions
At this stage, the listener is able to answer questions about the speaker’s message.
They have paid attention to the overall patterns and words of the message and can as a result answer some simple questions. However, they have not as yet developed the capacity to summarize and prioritize the speaker’s ideas; to put the speaker’s message into mental pictures; paraphrase their understanding of the speaker’s words, or acknowledge their true intentions.
Stage 4: Can Repeat Last Few Words
At this stage, the listener has developed good attentive skills, which enable them to repeat the speaker’s last few words and gain marginal insights into the speaker’s motives and intentions.
Stage 5: Can Tell Another Person
At this stage, the listener is very well in-tuned with the speaker’s message. They are able to read the speaker’s body language, facial gestures, tone of voice, and can put the speaker’s message into perspective. Moreover, if required, they have the ability to repeat what they have heard in precise detail to another person.
Stage 6: Ability to Teach Others
At this stage, the listener has mastered all the listening fundamentals we have discussed in this section. They are fully in-tune with the speaker’s message, motives, desires, and intentions, and are able to take the information they have heard and teach it to others easily and effectively.
Their understanding of the speaker’s message goes well beyond words alone. Consequently, they are able to identify with the speaker on a variety of levels and have built a detailed picture of the psychological makeup of the other person. They are in essence a Master Listener, who has succeeded in moving the speaker’s message through each listening filter without the slightest misunderstanding, which has effectively helped them to develop deep levels of rapport and influence over the speaker’s behaviors, words, decision, and actions.
The Fundamentals of Effective Talking
Within this section, we will discuss the fundamental principles of vocal control and the communication strategies you must incorporate into your interactions with others that will help you become a person of influence.
What to Do
Communicating your message effectively to other people is very much an art-form that can be learned and mastered over time.
In many instances, it is not so much what you say, but rather how you present the information you are verbalizing that has the greatest impact on the listener.
Your goal should effectively be to come across as being:
These qualities will enable you to draw people into your message, and thusly allow you to become a greater influential force in their lives.
Here are some key guidelines that will enable you to keep people interested and focused in on your message from the beginning to the very end:
Effective use of humor breaks the tension, relaxes others, and sends the message that you are a carefree, fun-loving person. This will enable people to open up and will draw them into your influence.
Speak with Optimism
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we are naturally drawn to people who radiate an optimistic energy. For this very reason, we must focus our verbal language on accentuating the positive and bringing this to the attention of others.
Use Common Courtesy
Most people appreciate those who are polite and well mannered. In fact, common courtesy can go a very long way if used correctly. In many instances a simple “thank you”, “please”, or “I appreciate that” can be all that stands between you and the outcome you desire to attain.
Build People’s Confidence
People are naturally drawn to those who have an uncanny ability to make them feel pleasurable sensations of confidence, strength, and self-belief. With that in mind, use your words and message to great effect, in order to help others build a confident state of mind. In this way, you will gain a great deal of respect and self-confidence in return.
Seek Common Interests and Goals
When conversing with another person, we always look for cues that tell us that the other person is of the same makeup and genetic code. We unconsciously look for similar interests, goals and the like. When we find them, we are automatically drawn to the other person emotionally and logically.
Your objective here is to communicate in ways that show the other person that you have a wide array of common interests and goals.
At first, these may not be evident on the surface, however, if you keep chunking your conversation down to the minuscule, or up towards the bigger picture, then you will surely find commonalities that will enable you to build high levels of rapport with the people you interact with.
Discuss People’s Problems
The one sure thing that will keep a person glued to your words is a discussion about their problems and the obstacles they face.
Problems are the triggers and stimulators of deep and intense emotions. These emotions need to be vented in some way, shape or form. And what better way to do that then to talk to someone who is willing to sympathize with your plight.
Ask Neutral Questions
Asking open-ended questions is the best way to stimulate conversation with another person. However, in many instances, these questions are tinged with biased perspectives and personal opinions that draw the other person away from their true feelings, emotions, and intentions.
When it comes to establishing a good rapport with another person you should instead be asking neutral questions that will allow the person’s true motives, feelings and intentions to shine through.
As an example, here are two questions you can ask another person. One of them is persuasively biased and the other is neutral. Which one is which?
• Do you believe that your marriage will lead to a better life?
• How do you envision your life after marriage?
Which question is neutral, and which is persuasively biased?
The first question is persuasively biased because it presupposes that the marriage will lead to a better life.
The second question is however neutral because it makes no presuppositions and allows the person to respond in accordance with their true motives and intentions. Although, if your objective is to influence the other person to think a certain way, then you will certainly be better-off posing questions that lead them in a specific thought-direction.
As you communicate with another person, pay particular attention to your level of congruence in word, thought, action and behavior.
When you are congruent on all physical and psychological levels, this will unconsciously raise the trust-factor between you and the other person, which will likewise lead to higher levels of rapport and personal influence.
What Not to Do
Creating high levels of rapport with another person can take a lot of work and a great deal of time. Conversely, breaking that rapport can happen almost in an instant.
The following set of guidelines will help us avoid the pitfalls of substandard communication choices that will hurt our relationships with other people.
Don’t Assume Your Truths = People’s Truths
In many instances, it is so very easy for us to assume that what we think, believe, and how we feel about a particular situation is simply a reflection of the other person’s perspective.
This error in communication will immediately break the rapport you have created with the other person and can lead to disagreement, distrust, and misunderstanding. All of which will immediately undermine your power of influence.
Don’t Discount People’s Feelings and Concerns
People are emotional creatures who require a great deal of love and support from others.
Riddled with personal concerns and problems, they seek other people’s support and understanding. And yet, what do most people do. They discount another person’s feelings and problems by saying:
“Oh look, don’t worry about it, I’m sure you’ll get over it.”
For most, this is a stab in the heart, an ongoing pain that proves to them that people are only concerned about their own personal interests.
Don’t Tell People they are Wrong
Do you want to be right, or do you want to build rapport?
This is a question you must keep at the forefront of your mind at all times.
There will be many instances when people will say things that are simply misunderstandings, or darn right wrong. If these opinions are minor in nature, simply agree and let them be.
If on the other hand, the mistake is significant and could potentially affect your livelihood, then you must gently and progressively help lead the person to the truth by asking an effective set of questions that will enable you to shift their perspective.
The key is to be gentle and patient. Don’t push too fast or too hard, otherwise the other person may despise you for being more knowledgeable than them.
Don’t Discuss Personal Problems
People have enough problems of their own to deal with. Don’t burden them with yours.
Talk about the other person’s problems instead, and make them feel important.
Don’t Provide Excessive Detail
Most people have a very short attention span of only a few minutes (sometimes seconds). Once this threshold is reached, they become bored, lose focus and attention.
The solution is to keep your communication brief, pause regularly and allow the other person to clarify their understanding and have their say. Only in this way, will you come across as an interesting and intriguing communicator.
Don’t Reassure People
When the world is falling on top of people’s heads, don’t tell them that things will be okay!
Unless you personally have the capacity and ability to make things better, then don’t even go there. The worst thing you could do is provide another person false hope about something that is unlikely to occur.
The simple rule here is, that if you personally can’t control the outcome then you should not be reassuring the person. Instead become a life coach by asking effective questions that will help clarify their thinking, and move them through their problems in an effective and efficient way.
Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice or Solutions
Unless another person specifically asks you to provide them with a solution to their problems — just keep your mouth politely closed.
The one thing that people don’t want, is an unsolicited solution to their problem. This is a sure way to gift them with an inferiority complex that will immediately break any rapport you have worked so hard to establish. Instead, allow the conversation to continue and grow over the course of a few hours or days. Later, gently approach them with an interesting story you heard from a friend about a personal problem they overcome that surprisingly parallels their own personal challenges. 😉
The covert approach always works better than going in with all guns blazing. 🙂
Exaggerating is the equivalent of telling a white lie. Yes, it might not hurt other people, but it will surely make them despise you once they learn the absolute truth.
Watch your language when you talk with others, and stay vigilant of those words that give other people the impression that you are exaggerating your story.
People like others to be down-to-earth and to tell things how they are, without the fluff and cherry on top.
Of course, when it comes to the psychology of persuasion, slight exaggerations may actually get you across the line, as long as this is undertaken in a covert manner.
Finally, public speaking requires a little emotional exaggeration, in order to build excitement and psychological power into your presentation.
When you gossip about others behind their backs to your friends or colleagues, then it gives these people the impression that you also gossip about them when they are not around.
You can never establish deep levels of rapport with your gossip buddies. These relationships are simply empty shells that echo the same story over-and-over again without an ending.
Don’t be Bossy
Adults simply don’t like others bossing them around or telling them what to do. As a matter-a-fact, teens don’t particularly appreciate this either. 😉
The solution is to simply learn to ask effective questions that progressively and indirectly influence the other person to your way of thinking. Yes, it takes a little more time and effort, but the rewards will enable you to maintain high levels of rapport without the consequence of a revolution. 😉
Don’t Criticize or Judge Openly
Don’t criticize or judge other people, even if you don’t agree with their perspective or opinion. Instead, just keep your thoughts to yourself. After all, there is no need to place your hand in a boiling pot of water if you can use a spoon. 🙂
This does not mean that you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe. By all means please do so. But before you do, just ask yourself:
Do I want to be right, or do I want to establish rapport?
Vocal Speech Principles
When communicating with another person pay attention to the quality of your voice and speech. Make sure that it projects all the right attributes that you want the listener to feel when you express yourself.
Here are some guidelines to assist you in this area:
- Speak with conviction and confidence.
- Use a moderate speed.
- Make use of effective pauses in speech.
- Speak articulately, in rhythm, with energy and resonance, while using a deeply controlled tone-of-voice.
Becoming a person of influence is a journey of discipline, awareness, understanding, and compassion that takes time and patience to learn and cultivate into our daily habitual patterns of behavior. It is not something that can be developed overnight, and it’s certainly not a skill that can ever be perfected.
Instead, we must learn to grow with the changing patterns of human behavior, with the changing social setting and the rules of interaction, and adapt our approach accordingly in order to maintain a high level of rapport that will allow us to be a powerful and positive influence over the lives of those we care about most.
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 25 Things Influential People do Better than Anyone Else @ Forbes
- Develop These 7 Skills to Become a More Influential Person @ Entrepreneur
- 10 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills @ Dumb Little Man
- Improve Your Communication Skills @ Mind Tools
- Better Conversation: Collecting Life Stories @ Scott H. Young
- 5 Conversation Mistakes that Can Make You Look Dumb @ Positivity Blog
- How to Really Listen to Someone @ Think Simple Now
- 25 Ways to Build Stronger Friendships @ Life Optimizer
- How Not to Suck at Socializing @ Lifehack
- 106 Tips to Become a Master Connector @ Life Optimizer
- The Art of Taking Criticism @ Pick the Brain