Steal this idea. How you can get good at working with others.

Working as a consultant it’s important to set people’s minds at ease and quickly gain their trust. Otherwise you can’t effectively gather information, or influence decision-making.

In my training workshops I talk about some micro-behaviours people in consultative roles can deliberately model to gain permission and establish rapport.

People sometimes balk at this. They don’t like the idea of behaving differently. Words like manipulative, unnatural and insincere are used to describe their reluctance. That’s understandable. That’s logical. It’s also a barrier to learning.

We could get into the debate about manipulation versus influence, the wisdom of fake it ’til you make it, and so on. We don’t debate, instead I set the group at ease and gain their trust. Then I demonstrate permission and rapport. And group members get to practice and learn the skills needed. That’s the benefit of experiential learning.

It’s sensible to practice new skills before trying with clients. That’s partly what the training workshops are about. My job is to help others overcome their fear of trying something new, to open up possibilities, to find useful lessons through deliberate practice.

Practicing new behaviours takes mental and physical effort. Adapting, modifying or unlearning old behaviours takes even greater effort. That effort can be difficult, even in a safe workshop environment. How can it be continued and sustained outside a workshop?

Here’s an example from my own practice:

Earlier this morning I met a 67-year-old man. We’re having some work done on a property and he was visiting the site to look at the Heath and Safety practices on site.

I had no reason to gain this man’s trust. No stake at risk. That presented me with a wonderful opportunity to focus awareness on behaviours (mine and his), practice a specific listening habit I’m working on, and notice how this affected trust during our interaction.

I generally gauge trust by the amount of personal disclosure somebody makes. Within 15 minutes I knew this man’s career history, that he had recently had a heart by-pass, and most interestingly that the crew working on my property were a new addition to his firm’s operation – this was their first job. Interesting content perhaps.

More interesting is what I learnt that will be useful next time I’m with a client. I increased my sensitivity to the behaviours that enabled, and curtailed the conversation that took place. I won’t go into those details here. Suffice it to say I was practicing subtle physical (body language) and verbal (language) adjustments to see what impact they had.

Of course this effort isn’t necessary. It’s a choice. We could have talked about the weather instead; we’re British so that would have been a perfectly acceptable, less effortful alternative.

Choose to practice and learn. That’s how you maintain effort outside a safe workshop environment.

Five micro-behaviours to get you started:

Next time you get the chance try out one micro-behaviour. See what impact it has on the other person. Try amplifying, or turning down the behaviour, see what difference that makes.

  1. Giving the other person your full attention.
  2. Saying thank you when people offer their opinion (even if you don’t agree).
  3. Nod your head when people are talking.
  4. Shake your head slowly when people are talking.
  5. Pause and touch your heart before speaking.

Once you’ve tried all five choose something else to practice next time you meet a stranger. If your stuck for ideas please get in touch.

The bottom line

Get real: Notice your discomfort in trying new behaviours and styles of interaction.

Get prepared: Have a mental list of behaviours you will try out when you’re in a safe situation.

Get savvy: The best time to try new behaviours is when the stakes are low.

Thanks as always for reading.