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Weekly 3: Build common ground


Idea Journal Weekly 3

June 13 · Issue #195 · View online

We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Identifying shared interests is critical to both establishing new relationships and deepening existing ones. This issue explores three ideas to help you build more common ground with the people in your life.
(~4 min read)

#1. First, listen and become curious about the other person
In his book The Laws of Human Nature, author Robert Greene acknowledges that it’s hard to listen deeply to others during a conversation because each of us is naturally more interested in our own experiences, feelings, and thoughts. 
For Greene, the key to silencing your own internal monologue during a conversation is to become actively curious about other person. 
You already know your own thoughts all too well, and you’re unlikely to surprise yourself. But each person you encounter is like an undiscovered country full of surprises: “Imagine for a moment that you could step inside people’s minds and what an amazing journey that could be.”
People who seem dull or quiet have strange inner lives for you to explore. Even those you consider foolish can provide opportunities to better understand the origins of their flaws.
Greene offers a few tips to make the most of your conversational journey: 
1. Look for nonverbal cues: Instead of simply barraging the other person with questions to learn more about them, pay attention to which topics make their eyes light up. You should then guide the conversation in that direction: “Almost everyone likes to talk about their childhood, their family, the ins and outs of their work, or some cause that is dear to them.“
2. Internalize and mirror their interests: The best way to signal to the other person that you’re listening deeply is to occasionally say something they have said, but in your own words and filtered through your experiences.
As Greene points out, your goal in listening deeply is to allow the other person to come away from the conversation feeling better about themselves. 
You’ve made them the star of the show, and drawn out the wittier, more fun-loving side of their personality: “They will love you for this and will look forward to the next encounter.”
#2. Look for shared passions
In his book Enchantment, author and entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki cites research by social scientists John Carlisle and Neil Rackman, which shows that the best negotiators spend 40% of their preparation time finding shared interests with the other party.
How much effort do you invest when you interact with people?
Kawasaki recommends the following three steps for finding shared interests:
1. Assume everyone has passions: Everyone is passionate about something, and it’s your job to find out what it is. When in doubt, good places to start are family, food, hobbies, sports, and travel.
2. Assume you have something in common: If you assume that you share interests with someone, you’ll be more likely to find them. If you assume you don’t, you probably won’t find any because you’ll give up too easily.
3. Do your homework: Put in the time to research their concerns, educational background, perspectives, and work.
Kawasaki is an avid hockey player, and he admits that when strangers tell him they also play hockey, it lowers his resistance to their pitch: “If nothing else, I respect them for making the effort to learn my passion.”
#3. Make yourself relevant
Author and entrepreneur Rajesh Setty writes on his blog that it’s harder for your message to get through when you’re irrelevant. 
This may seem like an obvious point, but that doesn’t make it any less important. 
Think about the last time you tuned out when someone was talking to you. Your attention probably faded in part because the person continued to talk about things you weren’t interested in.
How many times have you continued to talk with someone about something that was not relevant to them?
Setty tells the story of receiving an unsolicited email from someone named Bob Thomas. It was an announcement about a new magazine called Enterprise Open Source Journal, which at the time was the first-ever publication covering open source in an enterprise setting. 
Because Setty was active in the open source business, he didn’t consider the unsolicited email spam. It was relevant to him and his work. In fact, he thanked Thomas for his message and they’ve since become friends. 
As Setty points out, striving to be relevant in all of your key interactions can make a big difference in your life and the lives of those around you – from family and friends, to clients and co-workers.
And the easiest path to relevance is to genuinely care: “Once you care, you will start to take notice of what is relevant to them rather than focusing on what is relevant to you.”
Quote of the week
“The way that you reach people is by finding common ground. It’s by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion.”
- Management consultant and debate coach Julia Dhar in her TED Talk
Idea Journal
Idea Journal
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