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Why Do I Have to Go First?

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Why Do I Have to Go First?
(click for podcast version)


Throughout my consulting and coaching practice, I’ve put the onus on my clients to strive for understanding others, have compassion for others, and to see the world through other’s eyes.  Recently, someone asked some questions that raised an interesting point:

“Why should I take the first step, or make the first move?  Why do I have to understand their way of seeing things?  Why can’t they try to understand me the way I say things?  Why can’t they just see it my way?” 

There are many ways to look at this, but one thing you can count on is that you could wait a long time for the other person to make the first move, and it may not happen. 

The ritual of holding out one’s empty “weapon hand,” which is how the handshake originated, has become so unconscious that we’ve forgotten how “going first” has always been our way of initiating interaction. 

My father who’s a biochemist, shared a natural way of looking at this that transcends social niceties or rules of behavior.  There’s a simple reality in physics, described by the Second Law of Thermodynamics: energy flows from a warm body to a cold body.  This is how the energy transfer begins the process of achieving equilibrium.  Physics describes the Universe around us so elegantly; why argue with nature?

 By initiating interaction with a genuine desire to understand the other person, you become a warm body.  This allows the other person to warm up to you, and the flow is reciprocated.  Eventually, the flow back and forth reaches something like physical equilibrium, and the relationship moves forward

Make the First Move -
‘Tis Better to Give than to Receive

Extend the hand (or ear) and you’re offering a gift: the gift of your attention.  This gets the ball rolling, as you’ve removed the obstacle of fear from the other person.  They’re no longer in a position of “hoping” (with a bit of anxiety) that you’ll listen to them, or at least not make them feel dismissed.  You’ve given them a sense of safety about opening up to you, and you get the reward of what comes from that open exchange.

Don’t Do a Sales Song and Dance -
Interaction is a Two-Way Street

When someone monopolizes the conversation and you can’t get a word in edgewise, it can feel as if there’s no point in even being there.  You certainly don’t want that to be someone else’s experience of you.  There are usually two reasons we fall into this pattern or habit of “verbal streaming.” 

First, there’s the common developmental issue of narcissism or self-absorption.  This turns every interaction into a one-way street (and usually a very short one at that!)  You may have heard the joke about the narcissist going on and on about himself, until he realizes it and says, “Enough about me, let’s talk about you.  What do you think of my outfit?”  Stay conscious of your intent: interaction – back and forth exchange.  Keep the horse in front of the cart. 

The second reason we fall into that pattern is good old fear or anxiety.  At the root of this is a belief or feeling of scarcity; there’s not enough time, I’ve only got this one chance, what if I don’t get my point across, or they don’t like me?  Ironically, when you make the room for them to go first, none of that will drive the interaction or be what it hinges on.  When you foster two-way interaction, you remove those obstacles, because now the other person will want to have more interaction with you, so you’ve eliminated scarcity.

The Last Step -
A Leap of Faith

There’s one last piece of anxiety to address, and that would be over your leap of faith that this process actually works.  Go ahead and put yourself in the position of the other person you want to interact with.  If it were you, how would you respond to someone actively listening to you, being fully engaged, and not interrupting you?  You’d probably relax, enjoy yourself, and remember what a good time you had with this person.  You’d want more.  You’d feel comfortable that they really hear you, and that you’d be able to work with them.  Isn’t that exactly what you want others to think of you?  There’s an old expression about why we have two ears and only one mouth.  Really listening gets the flow of energy and interaction moving, that will lead you to greater success.



Quick Communication Tip


Offer Relaxing Calm

If we pay attention to the level of anxiety most people have around “getting their point across,” or needing to be heard, we’ve got a head start on a great gift.  All we need to do is give the other person the space to talk first.  We’ll find out pretty quickly if they’re going to dominate the conversation anyway, so we might as well find out right up front.  This gives us information to work with.

Most interactions at work are going to be about some form of negotiation or information gathering.  In a way, this is like playing poker.  The most important thing for you to do is determine what their cards are, not to tell them what yours are.  The more information you have about them, the better you’re able to work with them, sell to them, negotiate with them, and of course, to understand them.  There’s no downside to this.  Once the warmth has flowed toward them, it will naturally flow back to you, creating equilibrium.

Want to learn more about how your communication can hold you back or catapult you forward?  Come visit the web site, or better yet, contact me and see how we can design a program to fit your needs and desired outcomes.


Resource Links:

Conscious Communication - the podcast series
KG Stiles: "Conversations that Enlighten and Heal"
Ian Blei on Kind Ambition and the
Integram (TM)

Personal Life Media - "Coaching the Life Coach:"
Communication Excellence (Podcast Snippets)
Communication Excellence (full interview)

Interview Podcast for Evolutionary Radio w/ J. McClain

Kind Ambition -
2nd Edition now available

Got Blog? c
ome visit the Blog.

Character Driven - Ever want to create characters that were so believable, that people forgot they were characters?



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