by Karen B. Smith, MBA, PMP:

It has been said that it’s good to have an open mind, especially when so much richness can be gained. No, not the “richness” that comes with winning the lottery, but keeping an open mind to catch clues that will help you every single day … personally and professionally.

You may or may not have heard about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), but it’s a connection between the neurological processes (“neuro”), language (“linguistic”), and behavioral patterns that have been learned through experience (“programming”) and can be organized to achieve specific goals in life. This “wiring” helps us to communicate, even when we haven’t said a word. However, what comes out is a “scream” to those who are perceptive. An important aspect of NLP is sensory acuity, e.g., our ability to notice by seeing, hearing, and feeling the result of any behavior. The better our observation, the better we will be able to decide upon a different behavior that will bring us nearer to our goal. You then have to be prepared to change what you are doing in response to what you notice, again with an eye on your outcome.

I was first introduced to NLP in the late 1980s. At the time, some people thought NLP was manipulative; others did not. I personally believe that when it is used ethically, it can help you connect and build rapport with others.

Here are a few “context” clues to notice at your next cocktail party (by the way, cocktail parties are great “testing” grounds when building rapport). Does your conversation revolve around:

  • Pleasure or Pain? Do you act in a way that seeks to increase pleasure or decrease pain?
  • Matching or Mismatching? Some people sort in terms of what things they have in common, while others notice what is different.
  • Possibility or Necessity? Some people are motivated by what is necessary, rather than by what is possible.
  • Past, Present, or Future? Some people dwell on the past, others on the future, and others seem to live only for the present.

In terms of context, just noticing this behavior will help shape how you can interact more effectively with others and communicate with them on their terms.

While Forward Momentum is offering a new course on this topic, I wanted to share just a few things with you to help you notice things you may not have noticed before when communicating with others. There’s a lot to this topic – and other topics similar to this on communication – and context is only one way to get a clue on how others think and behave. Stay tuned to my next post for additional clues. There are several more to discuss.