When we approach people with deep interest and inquisitiveness, they feel noticed and appreciated. For many people this is quite a unique experience and leaves a profound impression.
“If you are waiting for anything to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important of your life. No future time is better than now to let your guard down and love”. ~David Deida, Blue Truth
In this article, the first in a series of six, I will introduce you to some basic but potent ideas and techniques for developing rapport and attraction between yourself and another from the very first meeting. I have written this article from a masculine perspective, but I think that it (and the increasingly complex, subsequent installments) will prove just as enlightening for people who approach life from a feminine essence. What I am proposing here is not some sort of seduction or pick-up strategy, but merely an eclectic collection of strategies to develop yourself towards becoming the person you want to be.
In this article I will introduce some general and simple concepts concerning how to begin to develop a deeper quality of connection with those around you. In subsequent articles I will explore more advanced skills and techniques building from the foundation laid here.
Learn to observe…
Humans are innately interpretive beings. What I mean is that we have a tendency not to simply notice things as they are, but very quickly to start developing a story – a set of judgments or interpretations – through which we can understand the world around us. Obviously this is a very useful skill. But a problem arises in the fact that our entire education system and societal values (or at least the media representations of them) are so judgment obsessed that we sometimes find it very difficult to untangle what is real from our stories about reality.
Our judgments are inherently idiosyncratic. They are formed of our own subjective interpretations and so they are unique to us. When I think a particular décor combination is garish, that is my thought, it is not a fact. Somebody else may think that it is lively and energetic, and that would be there interpretation. What we can agree on, however, are the objective facts about the décor: the dimensions, colors, or costs of installation for instance. These things are relatively objective and so we are likely to be able to reach agreement on them. Now, I am not proposing that there is anything wrong with judgments; but what I believe is important is that we are, firstly, able to develop the skills to truly observe and, secondly, that we are able to distinguish between our judgments and our observation.
Most people want to be noticed more than they want to be judged. Observing someone – I mean really observing them – and sharing the detail and clarity that you have gained from the experience communicates an enormous amount of presence and care. Most people are delighted when you notice small details in the way they present themselves. Accurate and careful observation can also tell us a great deal about someone, especially when we start experimenting and then carefully observe the results. Often we very quickly jump to conclusions based on past experience and therefore fail to see others for who they really are. When we are able to observe carefully and take responsibility for our own judgments it makes us far more approachable and interesting, and communicates that we take a sincere and meaningful interest in the true nature of those we choose to connect with.
On a similar note, I believe that disciplining ourselves to relate to the world with an attitude of curiosity not only substantially increases our quality of life, but also makes us virtually irresistible to those around us. Most humans are quite literally starved of any sort of genuine meaningful attention; and so, when we approach people with deep interest and inquisitiveness, they feel noticed and appreciated. For many people this is quite a unique experience and leaves a profound impression.
The art of being curious is about learning to ask the right questions. We want to aim for depth, be relentless miners for truth. The reality is that we will often find ourselves pleasantly surprised by how stimulating and exciting some topics that we previously judged as boring can be. Everybody is passionate about things, and when you can uncover those things that make someone tick and get them talking about them, they will really come alive. That passion and excitement is an exhilarating gift for the person experience, and is both beautiful and infectious for you as an observer.
Penetrating another's soul with your presence and interest without any hidden agenda takes skill and practice, but is an awesomely powerful way to build connection and sexual polarity and tension. Sadly, instead of this, we often allow our own story to drown out that of the person with whom we are talking, even when we are telling ourselves that we are listening because she is choosing the topic.
So what does listening really mean then?
The Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, is credited as having said that “when two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, G-D is the electricity that surges between them”. For me, this quote really conveys the essence of what listening can truly be. When we are prepared to choose to focus just on offering our presence and our intention is on connection there is a certain type of magic that takes place and joins our hearts.
For me, truly empathic and compassionate listening is a four part process . The four components, in my estimation, are as follows: offering our presence, practicing silent empathy, understanding meaning, and translating values. I will briefly introduce these four steps now and will provide a number of techniques that can help to develop our skillful means in subsequent articles.
The first, and arguably most essential, component of effective empathic listening is simply being fully present to another person. This is not as simple as it might sound. When we are in conversation with another person we are normally thinking about half a dozen unrelated things at the same time. Even if we are interested enough in what the other person is saying to not be doing this, we are more likely than not fixated upon what we are going to say or do next, or forming judgments or interpretations based upon what the other person is saying.
If you want to be able to actually offer someone your uninterrupted presence two things are needed. Firstly, you need to learn to slow down and connect with yourself. This skill can be acquired through various regular self-connection practices some of which I will explore in a subsequent article. Secondly, you need to shift your attention, intention, and consciousness away from any particular outcome, and choose to focus them instead on connecting deeply with the heart of another person.
The second step in this process is that of silent empathy. When someone is speaking to us and we are offering them our presence, we need to make a choice to shut our mouths and listen. When we are being silent we maintain our focus on the other person – as opposed to drifting into our own thoughts and interpretations – through practicing silent empathy. We hear the words that they say, but more than that we try and connect with and embody the energy and sense of what they are expressing through actively allowing ourselves to have a sensed awareness of their perspective. Occasionally it might be necessary to prompt them just to let them know that you haven’t fallen asleep. You can do this by simply nodding, or say something “uh-huh” or “tell me more”.
The third step simply involves clarifying the meaning behind the words that the other person is using and checking with them that you have a shared understanding. One effective way that you can do this is through paraphrasing what they say. When you are doing this it is best to keep the following things in mind:-
• Be tentative and clear that you are only offering your perception of what they have said.
• Don’t try to define or add any information to what they are saying.
• Do not add judgments, and keep your tone of voice steady.
• Be brief and direct.
• Be congruent; don’t pretend that you understand what it is like for someone else, do not substitute your own experience for theirs. It is often helpful to use language such as, “So I am hearing that you … Is that true?”
• Use your own words; don’t just repeat what someone has said to them.
• Read the subtle intensity of the others expression and match it.
The fourth skill has to do with identifying the universal values that are alive at the heart of the other’s expression. I will delve into this step more deeply in a later article.
The key thing to remember when you are encountering another human being is that you are faced with a once in a life-time experience to fully commune or meet with that person. You will never be with that person in that place and in that moment again. Be courageous. Be love. Penetrate her deeply with your compassion. Let your heart be open. Let the distance that you project between you disappear.