Recently, a dear friend of mine sent this thoughtful email:
I wondered if I could get your thoughts on something. This is something that has been weighing on my mind lately and I’m trying to get a grasp on my thoughts. After hearing some of your comments today I feel that you will have great thoughts on this topic.
Each day it seems the world gets harder and harder. People around us each day are going through struggles, struggling with depression, feeling anxious, getting addicted to things, making bad decisions or just simply get lazy. I often ask myself “How can I help prevent this in the lives of those around me?” or “What can I do to positively impact those around me?” – I’ve gotten one glaring, overwhelming answer:
“Learn how to build a deeper connection with the people around you.”
If we truly want to make a difference in someone’s life we need to understand how to effectively build a connection with them. We are all different. We communicate in different ways, we think using different processes, our minds process things differently, our emotions are all different – so if I truly want to make a difference I need to understand how to communicate with different types of people.
The Platinum Rule
There is a widely known “golden rule” which we all know – “Treat others how you want to be treated.” This is a great rule to live by. It promotes kindness and love towards others. But I’ve recently learned something known as “The Platinum Rule” which states – “Treat others the way they want to be treated.” Let me expound:
If I treated everyone how I want to be treated, I would walk around all day telling people how great they are, cracking jokes, having light conversation and enjoying groups of people (which is usually what I do). That is how I would want others to treat me. However, that may not be how S wants to be treated. S may want more one-on-one interaction with deep conversation and less “fluff.” I treat him how I want to be treated it will likely not build a connection and may even result in a bad relationship between S and myself. If I truly want to build a connection with S, I need to be able to understand how to communicate at his level, then be dynamic enough to communicate that way.
Another example – I have two children. I love them both more than I could ever explain. One day W will start to make his own important choices. As I watch him progress and learn I will need to understand how to effectively communicate with him. Does he react well to discipline? Does he need to be talked to calmly? Does he need to have things broken down for him into structured lessons? Does he need me to motivate him? Does he want me to preach to him or listen to him? etc. The way I interact with W will surely have to be different from how I interact with M. But if I want to build a deep connection with them and make a difference in their lives I will need to understand who they are and how they respond to different communication styles.
The following matrix (that I tried to explain today) is used to group people into 4 personality groups. This has been useful for me to understand people’s personalities and how they may want to be “treated.”
My question for you is two-fold:
How can we build a meaningful connection with the people we care about?
How can we better adapt our communication to fit the needs of each individual person?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
First off, the Platinum rule is a much better rule to follow. Our most important resources we can offer others is trust and attention. Marketers (and I would argue someone who posts a cat video on YouTube is a marketer) are working overtime to steal these resources. It varies but we are exposed to over 60,000 advertisements a day. Of course, not all marketers are selfish. Good marketers help us tell better stories.
Every one of us has a worldview, an internal dialogue on how we see the world, the story we tell ourselves. Aligning someone’s story with ours is the challenge of our day. If a bunch of people were to witness a car crash, everyone would report seeing something different. Why? Because of the story we tell ourselves. We see what we want to see, while ignoring the rest.
Everyone is right. We’re right because if you were raised the way someone else was raised, was taught they were taught, you would probably act the same way. We’re right because we look for things to reinforce our worldview, not to change it.
So how do you change people’s mind? Stories are what stick. That’s why parables from the Bible have lasted after 2,000 years or why Aesop’s fables stick with us because of the universal message.
The way our brains operate is based on fear. There are two nuclei attached to our spinal cord called the amygdala. That fight or flight response can react two seconds before our neocortex kicks in. The interesting thing inside the limbic system is that it has no capacity for language. This is where the chemicals in our brains make decisions. The neocortex is trying to interpret these chemicals. In other words, this narrative has nothing to do with our decision-making. And yet, we spend so much time bargaining with this narration.
Another way to look at this is if you’re watching a football play: the QB throws the ball, the receiver catches it and the announcer says, “he catches the pass”…imagine for a moment that the announcer says, “he catches the pass” and then the player does it. That would be really cool. Of course, it doesn’t work that way. When we are arguing with this narrative, it’s like arguing with the play-by-play announcer. He doesn’t have any control of the play, he’s just narrating.
(Think about this for a minute. It’s a game changer.)
What’s kept us alive for thousands of years is this fight or flight response. Now, we don’t run away from saber tooth tigers anymore, but that is how our brain continues to operate. When we hear a tree branch snap or receive a text from our boss, our brain reacts the same way in fear. If the fear is not going away, we need to learn to dance with it. When we talk about helping people get from where they are to where it is they want to go, understand that we all act in a way that keeps us safe. This is why we avoid emotional risks. We’ve seen this with the challenge of becoming more self-reliant. There are those that rather stick with what they know (debt) because that’s what they are familiar with. Change means “this might not work.” If I change my status-quo, I would I have to admit I have been wrong this whole time. We can help bridge this gap by helping others see, “knowing what I know now, I can make this shift.”
I can go on about our opportunity to become a torch bearer, the role artists play, debt/economics, gift economies, loon noises…but this would turn into a book that I hope to write someday.