Friday, April 23, 2010

90 Seconds or less to Bond: skills of social engagement

Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, Third EditionA bit ago i wrote about how Robert Sapolsky's Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers describes a rich variety of animal case studies of coping with stress in these creatures natural habitats. A biggie of  stress seen among our non-human kindred is the effect on longevity and quality of life. A key factor in bringing down stress and increasing longevity? Good socialization. After looking at Sapolsky's work it became clear that the research i do on well-being which had been focusing on nutrition, movement and rest/recovery needed to add in socialisation. But how?

In nutrition, movement and recovery, i've been keenly aware that there are skills for each of these practices, and i've spent some time researching, practicing and writing about some of them. Socialization has been a bit of a mystery, though. What skills would one even look for? We're not talking about etiquette, but about how to connect and play nice with others. Thumbing through the material for the various management and leadership courses i'd been on didn't percolate up anything about basic human engagement. In coaching, the closest thing seemed to be motivational interviewing, but that's not developing peer-to-peer encounter skills.

How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or LessAnd then, it - or at least a partial it - happened. I came across this fabulously concise (audio) book: how to make people like you in 90 seconds or less by Nicholas Boothman (uk cd | uk book|| us book | us cd).

In this wee book, Boothman presents a suite of skills to help us connect with people. These skills start before the first hello, such that the work of those 90 initial seconds (or less) in someone's company are richly prepared for optimal success.

The title sounds rather flakey, but in actual fact the skills are well founded in concepts like neural linguistic programming. That practice too sounds a little daunting as a controversial area of psychotherapy from the same era as TM. But whether one accepts the entire NLP package or not, the very pragmatic and specific application of it to human close encounters is both easy to grasp and to test with this simple question: do these techniques enable me to engage with other people more of the time and more successfully in more situations? For an introvert like myself, trying to add this Fourth Front of WellBeing to my skill set, believe me, this stuff has to be pretty robust if it's going to work.  And it does seem to be helping.

Boothman sets up a handful of concepts, from introduction approaches, to paying attention to the kind of language another uses (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) in order to successfully and quickly get on to that other person's wavelength.

Some of the techniques in the book will likely sound like simple politeness: be aware of cues from one person's conversation of where they want to go rather than pushing our own agenda/interests first. Other skills are more subtle: learn what to watch in body language cues for openness and engagement and where the body language matches words spoken - or does not.

And that's really it seems what these skills are mainly about: how attend with intent to an other in order to enable that person to feel comfortable. This comfort is achieved by having so modulating oneself to be on that other person's wavelenght that they feel safe, at home, we're sufficiently the same to share this exchange.

I'm looking forward to finding other books that map out more skills in the socializing space, but it seems remarkably appropriate that the first source that seems to fall into my hands (or ipod) is about these first steps to Making Contact.

If you too might like to improve the quality of your contact with Others, then i'd recommend this wee tome or cd set.


Chris said...

OK - I've ordered it! You are defining much fo my reading at the moment and it is all useful.


btw, when work quietens down I might take you up on a video assessment.

dr. m.c. said...

wow. that's cool chris. let me know what you think, and happy to connect with you anon. be well.



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