How do we miss the message? November 19, 2009
Last week I discussed the idea of non-verbal clusters. If you read it, you probably said to yourself, “Of course”. Yeah, you’re an intelligent aware human, you know this basic stuff. So how come we so often miss these clusters until after the fact?
You might have had the experience, but I’m sure you know someone who has: After some particularly bad experience you (or your friend) say something along the lines of, “how could I be so blind?” How could you miss obvious signs of lying?
Chances are you’re listening too much to what is being said. Maybe the person is telling you exactly what you want to hear:
“You’re good looking.” (While they smirk and shake their head.)
“I like and respect your opinion.” (Said while reading an email.)
“I trust you to do some tasks.” (While their shoulders shudder and their voice wavers.)
I’m not suggesting that what is said is not important. It is very important. However, it’s no more or less important than the rest of the message. Forget the well known research that says that only 7% of the message is verbal. While that’s true (for a very select type of communication) the communication itself is worthless without that 7%! Just try and communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your language to know how critical that 7% is.
So how do we train ourselves to not get caught by the words? As with most things – practice. We’ve practiced (even trained) to only listen to the words. Breaking that habit can be hard. It is possible.
Start with watching their eyes. When they talk, notice where their eyes go. Once you can keep watching their eyes while listening fully, notice the connection between where they look and the words they speak. When they pause to think, do they look in the same direction every time? Where do they look when talking about themselves, about others, about events, about places?
Yeah, this is a basic, but if you’ve not done this before it can be tough. Stick with it and you’ll pick up much more than just their eye movements.
Feel free to comment about your experiences below!
Non-verbal clusters November 12, 2009
In a general post, I wrote about how to improve your lie detection. Now when I state lie detection, I’m also talking about every other thing a human can do. Truth detection, for example, is much harder than lie detection.
Emotion detection is also a useful skill. You may think that’s obvious to tell when someone’s emotional, and you’re right. However, we often find meaning where there is none.
Imagine you walk into a room, and there is an acquaintance of yours sitting by themselves with tears running down their cheeks. Are they happy or sad? We don’t know – chances are they are sad but we are not a statistic, so we can’t tell just by seeing the tears.
Now, if there are tears and they are frowning, that increases the likelihood that they are sad. If their shoulders are hunched, they hide their face in their hands, their breathing is shallow, and the likelihood goes up even more. All these single non-verbal messages go together – they cluster. The more matching messages clustered together, the more certain you can be (but never to 100%) of the emotion.
Another way to put this: Every single human gesture has multiple meanings. If you sense one single gesture, it could mean any one of those meanings. When you see two gestures at the same time, the meanings overlap. The meanings that don’t overlap can be ignored. The more gestures you spy, the more likely you can know the meaning.
How to haggle November 6, 2009
Last week, I was in China having another adventure.
During my stay I had the joyous opportunity to visit a few large bustling markets. These markets are full of small (usually no larger than a few meters square) open stalls, filled to overflowing with all kinds of merchandise and staffed with some of the best negotiatiors on the earth.
All of the markets I visited haggling for price was expected. When I first arrived, I was told this, but forgot some of my most important haggling skills. It’d been almost a year since bartering on the streets of Bangkok, and I’d forgotten what I was doing. And this is why I’m doing this post – to remind me what to do next time, so I don’t again pay a 100% markup on items.
Bad example 1: My first purchase of the week I asked for the item by name. Several were shown and a price of 150 was stated. I countered with 40. He dropped to 100. I raised to 50. He dropped to 60. At this point, I knew I’d made a mistake buy stating a high price too early. I walked out with the item for 50. See rules #4.
Example 2: Later that same day, I haggle over a sweater. The sales girl starts with, “This is nice, genuine cashmere” (see rule #14), “last customer I sell for 1200, for you I give you best price 1000.” (see rule #3).
I counter with “Too much. 10.”
She gives me an academy award performance of shock (rule #24), “No. Best cashmere. Last customer I sell for 1300 (yes, in direct contrast to the 1200 thirty seconds ago), for you 900.”
“No, way too much. Thankyou.” I say, turning to walk away (rule #5). She grabs my arm.
“How much, real price, not crazy price.” (Rule #15)
Example 3: I’m haggling for some belts and we’re about half way through the negotiation. She says “You good bargainer.” I say, “You’re better.” (see rule #9, #26).
She thrusts the calculator into my hand again, “your best price.” I type out another very low offer, she looks at it, looks at me with confusion and says jokingly “You Aussies are usually so nice.” (see rule #24).
Example 4: I look at some nice fans. The girl shows me the variety, explains the double silk and bamboo construction. The opens the negotiation with 200. I shake my head say “crazy price” and just walk off. She yells after me, “100! Ok 50. You good bargainer 20, 10!” (see rule #5, #15)
Example 5: I’m haggling over a teapot. Their initial price 500. Mine 20. They come down some, I immediatly jump to 80. We then spend the next 10 minutes with me staying on 80, and them dropping the price by increasingly smaller amounts. They began getting frustrated that I wouldn’t raise my offer. (See rule #11.)
Bad example 6: I’m haggling over some luggage. There was about a thousand RMB difference between our two prices, and I’d already raised the max I would pay twice. I guessed (incorrectly it turns out) that we can’t meet so start to walk away for the third time. The sales girl physically stops me and says, “Best price,” and for the third time I give the same price I did last time. I then start to move her and she says, “ok,” dropping 1000 off her last offer. (Rule #5, #2 and #21).
Bad example 7: Negotiating hard for a nice jade pendant and silver chain we’d tested the jade several times to prove it’s real jade and not plastic. The chain was a fine silver chain. Once we settled on price, she took away the chain and pendant and offered it to her assistant to package. As I’m watching to ensure they don’t swap for a similar looking plastic pendant, the attendant says, “which sized necklace?” and they swap the necklace right in front of me. It’s not a bad replacement necklace, just different than what I was negotiating for. See rule #31.
So after those examples, these are my loose rules for haggling. They can be used anywhere, and even extended to bigger price negotiation, but work best for small scale, one off situations that you find in these kinds of market.
- Let them state the price first.
You might have been happy to pay that initial price, now you know you would be paying too much.
- If you think you got a good deal, you did. It doesn’t matter if someone else got a better deal or you could have got a better price if you did something different.
- They will usually give an overblown price, then immediately discount just for you. Related to rule #10.
- Counter with 1/10 price or less.
This is highly dependant on the market, some more, some less. However, you’re low-balling, just like they are high-balling. Do so with a smile knowing you’ll haggle. Related to rule #11.
- At least once walk (or threaten to walk) away, if they call you back, or yell a lower price. The relationship and negotiation is still on.
- Except in the most extreme situations, it’s unlikely they’ll ever sell at a loss. That means profit is their problem not yours. Your job is to get the best deal you can, and have fun doing it.
- Joke around, flirt, have fun. This is enjoyable (or should be) for both of you. See rule #20, #6.
- If they touch you, touch them back in the same way.
- If they compliment you, compliment them back.
- They often have a bad, fake or broken version of the product you’re haggling over. They might offer you the bad version for your last price. This means you’re on track.
- It’s much, much easier to start low and raise your price in tiny increments, than staying on your initially higher price.
- If you buy and they seem angry, you got a good deal (although they would have still made a profit – see rule #6) Related to rule #24.
- If you bargain too hard and don’t end up making the deal. You now know their profit margin, go to another store and start over with this new information. Usually in these markets, all the stores have the exact same products.
- They will throw reasons at you to convince you to buy. “You can’t get this at home”, “Best product”, “Genuine, not fake”, “best here”, etc. Throw the same number back. “I have to carry it home”, “Not the colour I want”, “See the scuff mark here” doesn’t matter what the reason is, use it to justify your last price just as they do.
- Use the exact words one stall uses with you on another. “Crazy”, “kill me”, “hard bargainer”. Etc.
- Say no many times before saying yes.
- Go in early or late. First and last customers of the day have an easier time getting a good deal through most of Asia.
- Take their comments and compliments and own them. “I am your best customer!” Tends to throw them off.
- They are the person that’s working. Make their job enjoyable and you get a better deal.
- Have fun. Smile, joke around. See rule #19
- Do some preparation before hand. Find out rough price guides for what you’d be expected to pay. Ask many locals (and some forigners for comparison). Incorporate this information into you initial offer and maximum price.
- Make one, or a few tiny purchases first. Things you might not want, but can use as gifts. Haggle very hard. Haggle so hard that the shop owner doesn’t sell to you. This gives you direct experience on what to expect when you’re haggling too hard or too soft.
- Do not raise your voice or get angry. It’s never ever personal. See rules #19, #20.
- They can act well. You’ll experience shock, upset, mild anger, and other emotions. They might even laugh at you and throw insults in your direction. “Aussies are usually so nice.” Act back, win an oscar for me.
- Keep an ear out to the haggling going on to your left and right, you can know how good or bad yours is doing comparatively. Did the person before you pay less or more? You can also use this to know the markup. See rule #4, #21.
- Flattery works both ways. See rule #9 #15.
- Carrying a bag with purchases changes the dynamic. You’re now a confirmed buyer of ‘that product’ and usually get a better response. They might ask how much you paid, you can use that to negotiate another one of the same for cheaper.
- You will not be treated as the unique individual that you are in the beginning. You will be offered an initial price based on some unknown reason. Could be their standard price, could be your accent, shoes, haircut, or just that the last guy paid off. It’s not about you. See rule #23.
- When a second person joins the negotiation, you’re getting a good deal, or having fun or both.
- Bulk or multi item discounts add additional aspects to the negotiation.
- Watch for the bait and switch.
Above all remember their job is to get as much money as they can out of your wallet and yours is to keep as much as you can in your wallet while getting the items you want and have fun doing it.
Do you have any others that you use?
What’s most important? September 17, 2009
I travel regularly. At least one week in two I’m out of home. This means I get to meet many new and interesting people and marvel at the different things they notice.
Of late, I’ve been wearing my Vibram barefoot running shoes for the plane trip. They are very comfortable (criteria #1) and contain no metal (so I don’t have to take them off going through security). They also attract alot of attention.
As I’m waiting for my bag to exit the carousel, a business man in a crisp suit comes up to me, stares at my feet and says, “What are they?”
I raise my right foot and wiggle my toes. “They are called barefoot running shoes.”
“I’ve never seen anything like them.”
“They are great. Very comfortable and good for your feet and posture.”
The next thing he says confuses me for a while. “Are you a podiatrist?”
We talk for a little more before he wanders off to grab his bag. Yet his question stays with me. What was his reason for asking something like that? What did that say about him?
In the end I realise because of the way he asked that he would never wear such different shoes. To him, doing something so strange would be worse than foot pain. To extend on that: His appearance is more important than his health.
Now I could be wrong, he might have been asking to confirm my qualifications before asking advice. Regardless its a good example of how different personal criteria makes a big difference in behaviour.
Think about your own life. What’s most important to you about your work? Is it the money (rare)? Is it the human interactions? Is it the chance to change the world or create something new? Doesn’t matter what it is at all. What matters is if you’re achieving that, or if you’re being frustrated.
Think about what you think is the most important thing for the people you work with. Is it the same, different or even in direct opposition?
Meeting the objections in meetings May 20, 2008
Part of the work I’m passionate about is helping teams work better together. Some time ago I was working with an IT company that had a great team, “…if only Peter wouldn’t shoot down every idea.” (Once again, names are changed to protect the guilty.)
So there I am, Tuesday morning, watching my first meeting. I don’t remember what they were talking about specifically, but it had something to do with a client problem.
Someone offers a suggestion for a solution, and Peter immediately jumps in and says that it won’t work because of this, this and this.
Everyone at the table rolls their eyes. They’d been through this before. Yet I’m fascinated that someone could come up with so many examples of why it wouldn’t work so fast (and this guy was fast!)
This cycle goes on for a bit. Problem, suggested solution, Peter shooting it down in flames.
After about the fifth iteration I jump in and thank Peter for his input. This shocks him as he’s treated like, and acts like an outcast. I don’t think he’d ever been thanked for shooting down other people ideas. Then I go on to say that his comments are not just important, but critical to success. Now I have the entire table shocked.
I continue to Peter, “And, you’re jumping in too soon. You need to allow the potential solutions that are being offered to be fully formed before you offer your feedback. Hold off until they’ve finished their entire suggestion, or to put it another way, give them enough rope to hang themselves. ” Peter smiles at this. Everyone else was too shocked to comment.
Still, the rest of the meeting, Peter is responding differently, taking his time, allowing a solution to be presented and he would point out a specific problem, with only part of the solution (and thus improving the eventual solution). The team is suddenly more effective. And after a few more subtle changes to do with accountability, they are working together nicely.
Many meetings have this issue; Not a Peter, but a disorganised sequence.
Just like calling someone on the phone, you have to type in the right sequence of numbers to get the person you want. It’s the same with meetings. With the right meeting sequence, you can have a meeting achieve agreement in much less time (and have influence over which side that agreement is on), reach decisions faster, and best of all, shorten the length of the meeting!
How do you make decisions? March 18, 2008
If you are like most people, you don’t know the process you go through to make a decision. It happens quickly, naturally, and without our awareness.
The easiest ways to discover how you make a decision, is to take 4 of your friends out to dinner.
When you are handed a menu, place it closed in front of you and watch your friends. Notice how one might ask what someone else is going to have. Notice another might read through every item. Another might glance at the menu and close it. The fourth will do something different.
Once they have made their choice, pick on one of your friends with these questions. (I’ll leave the decision of which one to pick up to you, but if you’ve worked with me before, you’ll know my selection criteria).
“What have you chosen?” Listen closely to the answer. They will likely tell you everything about their decision process. Once they finish, ask:
“What made you choose that?” And again listen to their answer.
If you’re lucky, they’ll say something like “I looked through the menu till I found the dish I had before,” or “I opened the menu and picked the first thing I noticed.” If you’re unlucky, they’ll give you a long rambling story about their childhood. Both will tell you how they made that decision.
Now comes the real challenge. Pick up your menu and use their method to choose food for yourself. This doesn’t mean choose the same dish (although you might). If they choose something they have had before, then you do the same. If they choose the first thing they see, do the same.
Doing this can give you a powerful insight into your own decision method (and might have you eating something new – always a bonus!).
So after doing this, what does that get you?
- It gives you skills to notice someone else’s decision method. This in itself is useful for sales, negotiation, business or making your partner happy because if you know how someone makes a decision, simply give them the information they need to make the decision you want.
- You get insight into your own process. Even though you are only choosing what to eat, the chances are this is the same process you go through to pick a car, house, shoes or a pen.
- You now have another way to make a choice. Chances are you may not like this new method – thats ok, you don’t have to use it. You can keep it in your back pocket when you want a change, or are faced with a very difficult decision.
Notice how the people around you make decisions. Notice how you make your own decisions.
How to get a meeting back on track December 17, 2007
If you have sat in more than two meetings, you’ve had the experience of someone or something that distracts the meeting off onto other areas.
Might be the game of golf, might be the failing company. Who knows.
If you want to bring it back to the agenda, there is a very simple and effective formula.
I Notice …, which Means …, Can we ….
First say, “I notice…”
Describe what you see. No evaluation, no demands, no anger. At it’s simplest it’s “I notice that we’ve moved off the agenda.”
Then say, “I’m concerned…”
State what this observation means to you, the team, the meeting, the general state of the environment. Again, the simple observation is “I’m concerned we won’t cover everything on the agenda.”
Finally, “Can we…”
State what you want to happen next. Most likely what happens next is to have that talk after the meeting. It might be to table that idea for another meeting. If you don’t know what the next step is, you can even ask the group what can be done.
Using this method will save time, effort and frustration. Not to mention ensure the meetings stay on time and on track.
People communicate every day with themselves. With their own beliefs, ideas, values, maps.
You might have had the experience of asking someone a simple and innocuous question and receiving an angry, unexpected or strange answer. Almost as if they are having a completely different conversation.
I remember one time when I was running late for a train. I asked the time from tall fellow that was standing on the platform. He didn’t give me the time, but instead angrily swore at me and then turned away.
Every day we face the challenge of overcoming our own perceptions and communicating directly with, rather than what we expect or imagine about the person in front of us. This can be hard at times, especially with the people we know well already.
Every human being is unique and special and interesting. Every human being has value (even that guy on the station). Some of the ways to help you break through your own perceptions:
- Look or listen for what has changed or different since last time you talked to the person. This might be noticing their clothing, or hair. Maybe they were recovering from the flu last time.
- It is your responsibility to make sure the other person understands what you mean to say. Assume that the meaning of your communication is the response you get. In other words, if someone acts offended to something you said, treat the situation as if you did offended them.
- Use active listening skills.
- Put down the paper, step away from your email or stop doing other things and give the other person your full attention.
- Match the other persons ‘energy’ or ‘vibe’. If they are happy, be happy. If they are excited, match their excitement. If they are unhappy, sympthasize.
- Apologise when you make mistakes.
- Accept their statements as true. Everyone has the right to their own feelings.
- Stop interrupting and allow them to finish what they mean to say.
- Use the methods for shutting off your own internal dialogue. Sometimes we are having a conversation in our own mind while waiting for the other person to stop speaking.
- Similar to #4, set aside your personal history. If you are having a bad day, accept your emotions and don’t allow them to affect the communication. That’s not to say you should ignore past experiences, or what you are feeling – by all means take these into account. Instead be aware of how these changes affect your communications now.
- Listen to other peoples opinion, but make up your own through direct experience.
- Examine the entire situation. This person is just one person within the whole world. Who are their friends, who are they connected to? What has been happening in their life?
- Imagine them wearing different clothes, or with a different haircut. As the saying goes, the clothes don’t make the man but they do change your attitudes to the man.
- Understand your position of power. What is your relationship to this person – boss, child, employee, friend etc? Different power roles naturally changes your perceptions of others. Being aware of this can help you understand both your own and the other persons behaviour.
What other methods to you use?
Environment drives behaviour April 27, 2007
Similar to an earlier post, here is a video interview with Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo as he talks about his Stanford Prison Experiment. This experiment is a powerful example of just how your environment can effect your behaviour.
And here is a recent interview with Dr. Philip G. Zimbardo in the lead up to his new book.
How to waste millions of dollars worth of skill… April 10, 2007
A fascinating article in the Washington Post. Joshua Bell, one of the worlds best violinist, combined with one of the worlds best violins, goes busking for small change.
The article is a fantastic example of how our identity can change in response to our environment. This musician easily fills concert halls. Yet in a subway his identity shifts. To quote from the article:
- “At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change.”
So for the people rushing to get to work, he was just another starving artist. His ideas and beliefs started to change in response to the behaviour of the people walking past.
As a child prodigy, he has spent his like expecting attention and applause. Yet within the subway, his years of experience and expectation is shifted very quickly to appreciate ‘even a slight glance’.
What this means for us, as leaders and persuaders, is to be aware of the context around us. Are the people around us helping? Is the culture a barrier to success? Are we settling for ‘a slight glance’ when we want more respect and appreciation? Are we offering only ‘a slight glance’ when words of congratulations and support would improve performance?