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Weekly 3: Make your interactions more meaningful


Idea Journal Weekly 3

December 5 · Issue #220 · View online

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

Summary: Not all interactions you have with other people are created equal. Some leave you feeling engaged and inspired, while others are boring and unremarkable. This issue offers a few ideas to help make your interactions with others more meaningful—to the benefit of all parties.
(~5 min read)

#1. Favortism is a force of human nature
Journalist R.B. Sparkman writes in The Art of Manipulation that when you meet someone new, go beyond simply asking them what they do for a living. 
Also ask how they got into their career. 
Why is this effective? 
The question quickly warms the person up to you because no matter how much someone hates their job, people love to talk about how they got there.
It thrills a person when you’re interested in a subject so close to their heart.
Spark man tells the below story about his own successful use of this simple question:
“As a student I made my way through graduate school by peddling advertising space for a classical radio station that had only a tiny listening audience difficult selling job to say the least. 
One of my accounts, a thriving record store, was owned by an unusual businessman I’ll call Steve. 
When I took over my position as advertising manager, Steve’s record store had almost stopped advertising with my station altogether. So I was told to persuade him to take out another advertisement with us.
As I approached his store, I didn’t really anticipate any success with the man, and I was scared. 
When I walked into his office, I was surprised by his long hair and unorthodox appearance, never having met him before. Out of natural curiosity I asked, “How did you wind up owning a record store?” 
For some reason, that question seemed to tickle an erogenous zone in his heart. 
For a full hour he detailed his years of sacrifice that led to his current prosperity. And his justifiable pride showed as he related his story. 
Mostly as a result of my lucky question about how he got into his career, he treated me to lunch and signed a year-long advertising contract with our station. 
In addition he agreed to provide the station free albums from his classical record department to play on the air. 
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the power of favoritism, not my scant sales ability, accomplished all this for me. Steve liked me immediately because I flattered him by taking an interest in his work. His human nature put him more and more on my side as I devoted ninety percent of the conversation to his career. 
And after I’d made a friend of Steve, favoritism made him easy to persuade.”
#2. What are your 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 3 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. Become actively curious about the other person
Robert Greene acknowledges in his book The Laws of Human Nature that it’s hard to listen deeply to others during a conversation. 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.”
Quote of the week
“A real conversation always contains an invitation. You are inviting another person to reveal herself or himself to you, to tell you who they are or what they want.”
- Poet David Whyte in his essay 10 Questions That Have No Right to Go Away
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