Saturday 25 October 2014

Influencing: Calibrate! Calibrate! Calibrate

The difficulty with presenting any model of communication and influence is that it's full of generalisations and therefore it's easy to get caught out if we forget to calibrate for an individual. That is forget to understand how the model should be applied to, and would work for, that specific person.

A quick example is all those body language books that tell you if someone crosses their arms it means x, and if they hop on one foot it mean Y. Of course the theories in those books have merit but you need to calibrate for the individual for it to have real meaning. Crossing their arms does mean something - what it means is still open to debate until we have more information - do they do it all the time, just in certain circumstances, aligned with a certain tone or facial expression, with specific people etc. The model helps you look to see if it might be true for them but it doesn't mean it is until you've done more observation. 

(If you understand the concept then please jump straight to the last paragraph - otherwise join me on a once in a blue moon (for me here in these blogs anyway) in depth exploration and unpicking of an NLP theory - eye accessing cues.)

For example: eye accessing cues is a model in NLP that only works if we calibrate for an individual. You can't take the model, simply apply it to everyone and know you're making the right assumption. Despite the fact that many apply the model and will tell you that if someone looks up and to the left they're lying!
Let me explain - The eye accessing model suggests that when we visually recall something we will look up in a particular direction. It also suggested we'll look up in the opposite direction when we're visually constructing an image. (It also tells you where you'll look when you're hearing and feeling things too but lets not complicate matters.)

If you've not come across the model before then try it for yourself.

Find someone to do this simple exercise with. 
  • Sit comfortably across from someone and look into their eyes :-) (not close enough to scare them just close enough for you to easily see their eye movements).
  • Ask them to visualise their front door.
  • As they do this notice the direction in which their eyes flicker (likely to be up and to the left or right).
  • Talk about something else - just to break state.
  • Ask them to visualise a front door with pink spots and purple stripes (unless that's what their front door already looks like in which case make it even more unusual).
  • As they do this notice the direction in which their eyes flicker.
If the person fits the generalisation then:
  • 'recalling something visually' meant they looked in one direction (it's about 60/40 split of what direction people look).
  • When they had to 'construct the image' (ie didn't already have it on file in their memory) they looked in the opposite direction.
Which means when you're talking to them and they look up and to the right you now know what they're doing (more about what assumptions might be made later).

If they looked in the same direction when you asked them both questions then you may want to explore that a little more. It is the reason why we can't simply apply these models without calibrating for the individual.

If the model is right then when constructing an image we look one way, and when remembering an image we look the other. So if we look the same way for both then we could deduce one of the following:
  • They don't visually recall anything and have to construct both images.
  • They don't really have a front door as such (living in an apartment etc) and so had a construct an image. In this instance you just need to ask them about something they can remember and then add something to it for them to construct and see if they look in different directions.
  • They really have seen a door with pink spots and purples stripes and didn't have to construct it.
You get my drift. Asking people other questions you know the answer to and calibrating to see what direction they look may help you understand more about what they're doing. 

Constructing something visually doesn't however necessarily mean someone is lying but it could do - you'd have to ask a lot more questions and calibrate how they do what they do to get a bigger picture to be able to make that deduction.

A round about way of saying that when influencing others you need to:
  • Understand their preferences and how they do what they do
  • Apply these models to those preferences
  • Flex your approach to suit their preferences
  • Notice what you notice about their reaction to your style
  • If it worked - try it again
  • If it didn't work - explore what preferences you may have failed to address
Alison Smith
Inspiring change inside and out

* Image above is the international prototype of the kilogramme (IPK). It's what every other KG is calibrated against. It is made of an alloy of 90 % platinum and 10 % iridium and has been conserved at the BIPM since 1889. Sorry the geek in me loved the image :-) There was a programme on the BBC earlier in the year all about it!

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