|Dealing With Difficult People - Part 1|
|Written by Olivia Fox Cabane|
|Wednesday, 24 February 2010 14:01|
Do you remember your first kiss?
Of course you do. But how about the second?
Human beings remember “firsts”—the first time something happens, or the beginning of an experience—and this initial memory tends to carry over to the rest.
This process, called the “primacy effect,” is why beginnings are so crucial: Everything we see and hear gets filtered through our initial opinion. Start off the right foot, and the rest of the interaction will be colored by it, thereby tipping the scales in your favor. On the other hand, an unfavorable first impression can prove impossible to overcome even if the rest of the interaction was impeccable. Litigators know well how much their client’s first impression on a jury can affect the outcome of the trial and often spend hours preparing for this very first moment.
What does this tendency mean for you? Simply that if you start your interaction on the right note, it will color the rest of the experience.
So how can you start off right? Our body language is one of the key ways we communicate with people; far more in fact than we realize, and far more than our words do. The Harvard Business Review recently detailed research showing that the delivery of a message is far more important than the message itself. A negative performance review accompanied by positive body language was received much better than a positive review accompanied by negative body language.
As one University of Pennsylvania study put it, your body is a continuous transmitter, revealing your feelings even as they change from moment to moment. Everything about you, from the angle at which you hold your read to the position of your feet, is broadcasting information to everyone within sight at the rate of several thousand signals per second.
To broadcast empathy, try putting yourself in their shoes. What if you had been born in their circumstances, with their family and upbringing? Maybe you would’ve turned out just like they have, or as Bradford put it: There, but for the grace of God, go I.
Once you have a feeling of empathy, you can go a step further. Have you ever been with someone who truly and completely had your best interest at heart? Didn’t it give you a nice warm feeling? Wouldn’t you like to give that same feeling to others? All you need to do is to focus on how you could be of help to them; take their best interests at heart. Not only will you feel more connected to the person you’re speaking to; you’ll also be perceived differently as this genuine empathy and altruism plays out in your body language.