Ever since I started reading content from Ramit Sethi, I’ve found myself interested in social psychology. Ramit provides an enormous amount of extremely detailed insight into social interaction, especially in the area of finances. Check out his blog if you haven’t before. Seriously.
The ability to communicate is easily one of the most important skills to any career, and life in general. Knowing how to communicate and know how other people are thinking and feeling makes the difference between an average performer and a top performer.
How I started paying more attention to social situations
Recently, I’ve started picking up on conversations around me a little bit more. Listening and observing people on the bus, in Starbucks, etc.
One day, as I was working in Starbucks, a family of three walked in. Mom and dad were with a daughter that appeared to be around seven years old. Dad was staring at his phone throughout the whole duration of their Starbucks visit, and mom was trying to attend to the daughter while buying them all drinks. The daughter was trying to show her parents the drawings that she had made.
I felt a sense of sadness creep up my spine as I watched all of this unfold. And yet I wondered how many times I have let virtual interactions or future aspirations cloud my interactions in the present with my family or friends.
How many times have I actually stopped and put myself in someone else’s shoes, and truly analyzed and wondered how they were feeling or what they were thinking?
I made a promise to myself right there, that I would be more aware of the people around me, and seek to understand what they are thinking before I push my own agenda.
The ability to perceive and communicate becomes even more important in the business world. The employee who is able to do what his boss means will be much more effective than the employee that simply does as he is told. The employee that is able to see things from the manager’s perspective and anticipate what is coming helps a company be more versatile and powerful.
By paying more attention to how people think and what their concerns and feelings may be, you become more aware of the situation that is going on, and how to best handle it.
In this recent episode of Shark Tank, an entrepreneur with a product that cooks ramen in the microwave masterfully pitches and secures a deal with the extremely well known Mark Cuban. (Start from 26:50)
Watch this guy carefully as he is able to think on his feet, not give in when a sub-optimal deal has been offered, and convince Mark Cuban to come back into the game while negotiating his offer down to where he wants it. Watch his ability at the very end as he boldly promises to work harder than any of Mark’s other entrepreneurs.
But isn’t that being manipulative?
Communicating and negotiating doesn’t have to be sleazy or manipulative. In fact, I would argue that the best communicators aren’t manipulative at all. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and giving them what they are looking for is all about asking yourself how you can provide value to the other person, not about how you can trick them into helping you.
It’s only manipulation if your internal motive is to push your own agenda.
Try this out. Pay more attention to the people around you, and ask yourself what people around you are thinking and feeling. You’ll probably find that you become more sociable, and things will just start coming to you.
It’s really not about you.