Do you remember the last time you were sitting in a negotiation trying to pitch a deal and you noticed that the other person seemed disinterested in what you were saying? It may also be that while he was receptive in the beginning, he lost interest along the way somewhere? Do you remember trying to motivate one of your team members only to sense that he was not moved at all? Do you recall a time when you were trying to persuade your child to do something only to find that he/she did not do it later? Even worse, was there any time when negotiations ended in terrible conflict?
You probably were in similar situations also. When your boss was talking about the importance of teamwork, you thought he was an idiot! Or when that salesperson was trying to sell you something, you were not interested. Your partner was trying to tell you how much he/she cared for you and you thought he/she was not sincere.
What was happening here?
When you left home in the morning for that sales meeting, or the meeting with your team member or with the employees union, you may have summoned all your confidence and pitching skills to come out a winner. You may have repeated those affirmations a hundred times. However, from the moment you started talking, it was as if the people you were talking to were in a different land altogether. Why? Did you do something wrong or just bad hair day?
Before I answer that question, we must recall what Albert Mehrabian, the Armenian psychologist concluded from his studies, that only 7% of communication happens with “what” we say or the content. 38% of the communication is with our voice tonality or “how” we say things. 58% of all communication happens through physiology or our body language. Our facial expressions, the way we move our hands and legs, where we look, our breathing pattern, all play a much larger role in communication.
Now, to answer the question why the people we were communicating to were not interested or unmoved or did not change or ended up fighting with us is because of these things called “Metaphors”. Metaphors are the pictures that we see or the sounds we hear in our brains or the feelings that we experience in our bodies involuntarily. These occur without any conscious effort and are often what comes to your mind first. So, for example, if you saw a picture of a vast empty desert when you headed out for that sales meeting, that reflects on your physiology and will manifest in you being alone in a discussion. When you began talking to your team member, you may have seen thorns, representing an impediment or something that may hurt you. Your physiology translates this to your team member as “I don’t want you” or “I need to eliminate you because you will cause harm”. You may have pictured two guns when you went into the meeting with the union. This translates as “I have come prepared for a fight. Bring it on” So, what you say in all the above situations will not be congruent with your physiology and the subconscious mind of the person you are talking to catches this in an instant. It is between the sub conscious minds of two people that most communication happens. It is also possible that you started off with a right metaphor and midway, you changed metaphors to an unfavorable one. That’s when the other person lost interest. And this is exactly what happens with the other person too when you switch off in a conversation.
You may also hear some people say “Life is a battle”. Such people look at every situation in life as something to be won at the cost of eliminating the adversary. These people usually do not look cheerful. An employee who thinks “Work is hell” is unlikely to produce his best because he will always be the “victim” sentenced to this life. Similarly, if a student thinks of school as a jail, he will feel like a prisoner throughout and his teachers as people out to control him and he will miss out on the immense learning and friendships that schooling brings. If a mother thinks of bringing up her children as a chore, it is unlikely that the children develop a warm relationship with her. More likely, they will drift away from her. So, how do we deal with these situations? All of us are likely to encounter some of them in our lives. Is there no way to steer the conversation or interaction in our favor or to be mutually beneficial?
Take heart. All is not lost. There is a way to ensure that you get the outcomes you seek. . This is by altering the metaphors. So when you see the desert, go ahead a picture an oasis where a lot of people converge and happily chatter. When you see the thorns, imagine a lot of roses and you touching those roses and enjoying their fragrance while ignoring the thorns. When you see the guns, see water squirting out of them. You’ll probably laugh then. However, it is important to be aware of these metaphors as and when they occur or else you will not be able to alter them. Better still, why not think of positive metaphors all the time so your physiology emits the right signals to the people who you come in contact with?
So the next time you say “Life is a bitch”, think again.
Image from Google- www.psychcentral.com