Frame Your Focus
In today’s episode, we’ll focus on you. Specifically, we’ll focus on you framing your focus on those whom you interact with, not on yourself.
But first, let me tell you about Jack.
At a wedding I recently attended, the groom’s brother, Jack, was sitting next to me and giving a long speech to two bridesmaids sitting with us. After a while, both women started looking around, texting, or waving hello to other guests. You know what Jack did? He kept talking! He was completely oblivious to the unspoken message his audience was sending, which clearly was, “Your monologue is boring us to the point that we don’t care being considered rude.”
I don’t need to tell you that Jack is not a popular guy.
Jack lacks a basic ingredient of charisma—he lacks empathy. He tends to be so focused on himself and what he wants to say that he seems incapable of recognizing and sharing the feelings of the people he interacts with.
Empathy is a skill that can be developed. Practice these techniques until they become second nature.
Listen with Your Ears and Eyes
Listen attentively. Force yourself to suspend judgment and focus on listening, observing, and understanding what other people are saying (and what they’re not saying). Make an effort to read between the lines.
Whenever you start thinking of what you want to say next, bring the focus back to the other person, their words, their body language, and the feelings behind what they’re saying.
Don’t be concentrating into moving objects with your mind while they talk. Don’t let your mind wander. (It might not come back.) Place the spotlight on them, their words, tone, gestures, body language, and actions. Then react accordingly.
For instance, if they’re yawning, maybe stop talking and ask them a question. If they’re pleading with you to “get to the punch line,” then maybe finish the joke. If they’re yelling and screaming, maybe you walked into the wrong hotel room and need to apologize and get out before the cops get there. Simple stuff.
Ask about Their Feelings
Whenever the other person tells you about an event in their lives, imagine that you’re in their shoes and ask yourself, “How would I feel if this had just happened to me?” Come up with a feeling, and then ask them if that’s what they’re experiencing. For instance, if they say, “We just closed on our new house,” you might say, “Are you excited?” Sometimes their emotions will be predictable based on whether the event is generally considered a positive one (new baby!) or a negative one (they lost their job), but if you can’t predict, it’s okay to ask, “How do you feel about it?”
If you need practice identifying emotions, start by getting in touch with your own. Start increasing your emotional vocabulary by practicing with yourself. A few times a day, pause and ask yourself, “How are you feeling?” Don’t just say, “I’m fine.” Put what you’re experiencing into words, and try to determine why you’re feeling that way. For instance, if you’re feeling low energy, is it because you’re tired, bored, stressed, or perhaps hungry? Learning to recognize emotions in yourself is a great step in learning to recognize them in others.
Respect Different Perspectives
Sometimes, people will express ideas or beliefs that you initially don’t agree with, and that’s okay.
Empathic people have an open mind, are receptive to learning from others, and understand that being able to see things from different perspectives broadens their worldview. They actually actively seek conversations with people who are different from them, because they’re curious about human experience.
When you find yourself disagreeing with what someone’s saying, remind yourself that the purpose of your conversation is to build a relationship, not to compete with them.
Refrain yourself from becoming defensive, taking things personal, interrupting, lecturing, or explaining why they’re wrong. (This might be hard, but with practice, you can do it.)
Think about it: Have you ever found a “know-it-all” to be likable? Me neither.
1. Assess your level of empathy. Take this quiz developed by UC Berkeley.
2. Take time to reflect on your results.
3. In your next conversation, practice the techniques you learned in this lesson.
See you tomorrow. I’ll share with you a barely known secret that will allow you to create a “killer” first impression—every time. (Okay, maybe not a killer one, but rather a phenomenal one.)
P.S. I like you. (Okay, maybe daily is too much. But you know I do.)
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