ALIGN YOURSELF WITH OTHERS BY SEEKING THE COMMON GROUND!
Maintaining consistent rapport with other people is essential to improving your personal and professional relationships. The following are clever ways to align yourself with others even when you are faced with things that you don’t exactly see eye-to-eye on:
• Search for whatever it is that you do agree on.
The simplest way to align yourself with another person is to agree on an idea. However, there will be lots of times when you agree with some things but disagree on others. A good way to handle this kind of mixed situation is to focus on the things that you do agree on first. Leave your areas of disagreement or conflict for another time after you’ve already established a solid base of rapport.
• Point out what you like or enjoy.
While you’re interacting with another person, take note of how much you like or enjoy the other person or the way they tell their stories. One of the basic needs that all people have is to be like and accepted by others. You can also do this naturally by laughing, smiling, and showing that you’re having a good time with what the other person is saying. Or you can make a comment like, “I really enjoyed our conversation” or “You made me laugh with those funny stories of yours.”
• State what you admire in the other person.
As you’re listening to someone else speak, notice the positive qualities that they naturally project about themselves. For example, you might admire a person for their honesty, sensitivity, common sense, courage, determination, good taste, thoughtfulness, generosity, and kindness, to name a few. When you pick up on one of these qualities, strike while the iron is hot by saying, “I really admire the courage you’ve shown” or “You really are an honest person.”
• Find something that you respect about their position.
You might not agree with another person, but you can respect their opinions based on what it means to them. Usually this is more a show of politeness than agreement. An example of this would be to say, “I respect your line of reasoning because it makes perfect sense for you.” For many people this show of respect can be just as valuable to them as having someone agree on an issue.
• Tell them that you understand how they feel.
“I feel your pain,” is a phrase that people say to express empathy towards another person. It is important to know that sometimes people talk just to share their emotional load. Their desire is to have someone listen and not necessarily to have their problems solved. The feeling of being truly understood and listened to creates a subtle but strong relationship bond. This is even truer when the emotion being shared is painful.
• Link yourself at a higher level.
If you find yourself disagreeing with another person over a minor issue, attempt to find the greater objective or higher purpose that you’re both trying to achieve. For example, you might have someone who says to you, “Men are such liars!” You can agree with this comment at a higher level by replying, “Yes, some men can certainly tell a lie” or “Yes, there are people who are definitely liars.” You can also align on a common purpose by saying something like, “I agree that you can’t trust a liar” or “You can’t have a quality relationship with someone who lies.”
• If nothing else comes to mind, simply say “That’s interesting.”
I learn this technique from observing motivational expert Tony Robbins interact with people at his seminars. If someone voiced a strong personal opinion on a controversial issue and especially accused other people of being wrong, Tony would point his finger to his chin, nod his head, raise his eyebrows, and calmly say, “That’s interesting.” This combination of gestures gave the appearance of agreement, but in reality was only a clever and polite technique for handling objections or dissenting opinions.
THE BOTTOM LINE
While you can rarely agree completely with another person, there are ways to make the other person feel validated and understood. By learning how to align yourself with others, you’ll build bridges of communication that allow your relationship to continue and grow even when you don’t exactly agree on certain issues.
Steve Nakamoto is a two-time Writer’s Digest Award-Winning author, former Dale Carnegie Instructor, and personal development trainer for motivational expert Tony Robbins. Steve has served for nearly six years as the iVillage.com Mr. Answer Man relationship expert.
Here are excellent books to help put your communication skills to the test: