Want to Get Through to Others? Listen Deeply, and Adjust Your Approach

Think of almost any communication problem you have, and you’ll probably find that understanding the other person’s metaprograms will help you adjust communications so that the problem disappears.

Think of a frustration in your life – someone you love who doesn’t feel loved, someone you work with who manages to rub you the wrong way, or someone you’ve tried to help who hasn’t responded. What you need to do is identify the operating metaprogram, identify what you are doing, and identify what the other person is doing.

Suppose you need verification only once that you have a loving relationship, and your partner needs it consistently. Perhaps you put together a proposal that shows how things are alike, and your supervisor only wants to hear about the ways they’re different. Maybe you try to warn someone about something he needs to avoid, and he’s only interested in hearing about something he wants to go after.

We talked about this in metaprogram one — when you speak in the wrong key, the message that comes through is the wrong one. It’s as much a problem for parents dealing with their children as it is for executives dealing with their employees. In the past, many of us have not developed the acuity to recognize and calibrate the basic strategies that others use. When you fail to get your message through to someone, you don’t need to change the content. You have to develop the flexibility to be able to alter its form to fit the metaprograms of the person with whom you’re trying to communicate.

You can often communicate most effectively when you use several metaprograms together. My partners and I once had a business development with a man who did some work for us. We got together, and I began the meeting by trying to set a positive frame, saying I wanted to create an outcome that would satisfy both of us. He immediately said, “I’m not interested in any of that. I have this money, and I’m going to hang on to it. I just don’t want your attorney calling and bugging me anymore.”

So he began to move away. I said, “We want to make this work because we’re all committed to helping people and ourselves experience a better quality of life, and by working together we can do that.” He said, “We’re not all committed to helping other people. I don’t give a damn about you. All I care about is that I leave here happy.”

As the meeting continued with very little progress, it became clear that he:

moved away from
sorted by self
mismatched
had an internal frame of reference

and he didn’t believe things unless he saw them, heard them, and had them continually reinforced.

These metaprograms did not add up to a blue print for perfect communication, especially since I’m the opposite of almost all these things. We talked for almost two hours with no progress, and I was almost ready to give up. And then a light bulb finally lit up in my head, and I changed gears. I said, “You know that idea you have in your mind, I have it right here.” Then I made a fist. So I took his internal frame of reference, which I couldn’t manipulate with words, and I externalized it, so I could control it. Then I said, “I have it right here and you’ve got 60 seconds. Make your decision or you’re about to lose and lose big. I’m not going to lose, but you’re going to lose personally.” That gave him something new to move away from.

I went on from there. I said, “You’re [self] going to lose [move away from] because you don’t believe there’s a solution that can be worked out.” Well, he was a mismatcher, so he started to think the opposite, that there was a solution. Then I went on, “You better check inside yourself and see [internal frame of reference] if you’re really willing to pay the price that you’re going to have to pay, day after day, as a result of your decisions today. Because I’m going to continually tell people [his convincer strategy] about how you behaved here and what you did. You’ve got one minute to decide. You can decide now that you want to work this thing out, otherwise you’re going to lose everything – you personally, forever. Check me out. See if I’m congruent.”

It took him 20 seconds to jump up and say, “Look, guys, I always wanted to work with you. I know we can work things out.” He didn’t do it grudgingly. He got up enthusiastically, as though we were true pals. He said, “I just wanted to know we could talk.” Why so positive after two hours? Because I’d used his metaprograms, not my model of the world, to motivate him.

Next in this series: an element of success is the ability to make new distinctions.

11 Comments

  1. Nice Mr.Robbins. Liked it.

    Syed Amjad Ali on February 24th 2013

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