Like many photogaphers before him, Richard Zaltman was visting remote areas
of the world to capture images of people living lives far removed from those
in the United States. One morning, while walking through an isolated village
in Bhutan, he suddenly got the idea of turning his camera over to the locals
to see what they would consider significant enough to show others about themselves.
Later, when he looked at all their pictures, he noticed that most of the photos
cut off peoples feet. At first, I thought the villagers had just
aimed wrong, Zaltman says. But it turns out that being barefoot
is a sign of poverty. Even though everyone was barefoot, people wanted to hide
that - -which is an important message to see.
You never really know somebody until you see the choices she makes. What you
see is often not what you get. Youve long known that its usually not the
content but the people challenges that determine how
well you can do your job.
We instinctively pidgeonhole people into categories to make the world more
understandable and then get surprized by a co-workers sudden vehemence
about a new subject. Thats the mystery of life. You can have fewer surprizes,
however, when you seek to understand others less visible, underlying motives
and you may find easier, more satisfying ways of working with them. Notice,
for example, that what you -- and others -- dont reveal or say often says
Problems seldom exist at the level at which they are expressed.
We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.
As surrealist painter, Rene Magrite wrote, Everything we see hides something
else we want to see. Surrealists in art and literature in the 1920s and
1930s sought to understand and portray others subconsious perceptions
of the physical world. If you want insights into why people do what they do
-- so you can get them to be more open to doing what you want them to do --
discover their unstated or even unconscious motivvations for protection or pleasure.
To Say It Better uncover what they feel but are not saying.
Here are five ways to learn more about underlying feelings -- yours and others
-- so you can be more thoughtful, clear and genuine in your choices and your
1. Look for the Bare Feet That Arent in the Picture
To better understand someone and how to inspire that person to take positive
action, learn to recognize his unstated hot buttons of high emotion,
positive or negative. These are the major rules to his operating manual
-- what makes him run smoothly, bump into obstacles or simply get stuck. People
act most quickly and intensely to avoid what they fear, even if their worst
fear has a much lower probability of occurring than the possibility of their
dream scenario. Thats because our deepest, most innate and primeval gut
instinct is to survive. We reflexively react to any appearance of danger from
the most primative, triune part of the brain, which was developed way back when
fight or flight seemed the only options for any situation.
2. See Them in Motion to See Their Emotions
Seek to understand what the other person most wants to avoid; what most annoys
them or makes them angry or anxious.
To recognize their hot buttons, look for changes in their behavior as signals
that you are on a hot topic of concern. Facial expression tells others how we
feel, while our bodies suttest the intensity of our feelings. Look for the vital
signs of increased excitment such as dilated pupils, constricted throat
that produces a higher and /or thinner voice, rapid blinking, flsuhed face,
more rapid and shallow breathing or much less breathing and avoidance of direct
eye contact when he had looked you in the eye earlier in the conversation.
If the person usually moves and gestures little, look for the times when he
has more and more rapid body movements and hand or foot changes. If he tend
to be more animated, look for the times when he becomes more still.
Women, in time of increased concern, are more likely to hand dance,
that is move the hands and forearms more. When seated, men tend to leak
their feelings through twitching one foot when their legs are crossed. In general,
in times of conflict or other kinds of tension, women tend to move and talk
more and more; men tend to move and talk less and less. Psychiatrist, Pierre
Mornell wrote a book about this phenomena, vividly called Passive Men
and Wild, Wild Women.
Once you recognize when someone gets upset, you can consider what gets them
upset and come closer to understand their operating manual. Now you can present
your ideas in ways that address their concern, either directly or indirectly.
Thus you can get someone to either take action to avoid their perceived danger
or recognize how the perceived danger can be overcome or avoided to they can
contemplate an upside opportunity.
3. People Often Dont Understand Their Own Strong Reactions
Many times we are not aware of our underlying fears or concerns. We often go
through life in a trance, reacting to earlier patterns, especially vividly negative
experiences, and not knowing that we are not acting in our current best interests.
A client of mine only realized at age 42 that because shed had a stocky
brother who often physically and verbally bullied her, shed developed
a pattern the rest of her life of what she now calls preemptive defensiveness
around any man she met with a similiarly chunky body type. Only by understanding
her heretofore unconscious imprinting from childhood could she begin
to change her behavior towards new people she met.
Another colleague grew up in a household where tidiness and timeliness were
paramount. He was the black sheep in the family who resisted. Even
into adulthood, he kept a messy home and office,and was often late, especially
for people he felt were trying to control him. However, until he recognized
the pattern -- and his core unconscious motivation for free could he choose
how he really wanted to act.
Few people are aware of how dramatically bodies shut down in times of perceived
crisis or even unfamiliar situations, yet the phenomena has wide implications.
In times of fear or even mild discomfort, people have diminished hearing. They
start listening to you later in the conversation and hear and remember less.
Their peripheral vision narrows in times of mild or extreme upset. Even the
ability to taste goes down. Imagine a police officer whos afraid in a
dark alley, a surgeon who becomes angry during an operation or a child facing
a teacher on the first day of school.
In each shut down situation, they are hampering theirability to
perform and others may misinterpret their slowed down reactions, with possible
negative consequences for several people in the situation. You may see the pattern
in someone elses hot buttons when they do not, especially if you are around
that person frequently. If this person is close to you at home or work, it pays
to recognize their unstated warning signs so you appear as safe and familiar
as possible to that person, so they can be open to hearing you.
Dont assume the other person fully realizes why she is saying or acting
the way she is. Her words or deeds may have very different meaning for him than
for you. For example, many Americans are disturbed when another person does
not look them directly in the eye while talking. Yet for some cultures, such
as Spanish, direct eye contact demonstrates a lack of respect. Many shy people
or those deep in thought prefer to look away.
When someone else does not act right, like you, your strongest instinct will
be to make them act right by acting out a more extreme variation of your right
behavior. For example, you may become exaggerated in your attempt to look closely
at the other person so they will look at you. Instead, look to your bottom
line, the main goal in the situation -- which may be to get a task done
or to simply play. Do not focus on changing them unless -- and this is rare
-- their behhavior is interfering with your goal.
4. We Are Far More Revealing by the Questions We Ask Than the Answers We
To increase the chances of learning what is really on someones mind --
and thus what will motivate them to act -- know that people are far more revealing
when they are the questioners. when theyy are question you, rather than when
you are questioning them. While we are taught to ask questions to show interest
and learn more about another person, we will learn more, more deeply and quickly
when we get that person to ask us questions. How? Explain something that engages
their interest, touching on the highlights so they want to ask questions to
learn more. Respond directy but briefly to their questions so they are in
charge and asking follow-up questions to learn still more. Note the direction
that the oother persons questions take. On average, by the third question,
you will know more about the nature of their deeper concern or interest than
if you had taken charge, even with good intent to ask your own sequence
of questions. Why? Because you dont know what you dont know. Your
lien of questions will be based on your world view and operating manual. Their
line of questions will reveal theirs. Their questions bring you closer to whats
most on their mind, especially if they could ask them in close sequence to get
at what they msot wanted to know.
5. What Do You Not See in Yourself?
Want to learn more about your own blind spots and hot buttons? Or solve a nagging,
recurring problem? Or have a novel approach to an opporutnity pop into your
mind? Take time to do some of the apparently time-consuming daily tasks you
often do too fast or hire someone else to do: garden, wash your car,walk rather
than drive to an errand, buld or repair it yourself. You need these times to
sidelong glance at the periphery of your thoughts to gain insights
into your own operating manual. When you do a physical task, especially
one that involves motion, sunshine and fresh air, your mind can move in different
directions. Consider these task your mental cross-training to get
deeper into yor own psyche and imagination.
Youll gain a second benefit from your labors. Beth Berg created a job
out of designing and maintaining rich persons gardens in Southern California.
We went sailing near Santa Catalina Island in a boat lent to her by Richard,
a client who was detained in New York and could not use it. I asked her if she
would ever hire someone like herself to do some of her maintenance tasks. I
dont think so, she replied. I think I would always want to
take care of those basic things in my life. Because if you dont put the
work into something, you don't know the worth of it either.
Beth said that she told Richard, her client, We plant these flowers in
your garden and most of the time you just walk by them. Its sad, really.
You dont get the good feelings from your life that I get from your life.
Ways to Sidelong Glance Back at Your Own Decision making
- Do the mundane to experience the profound.
- Go slow to go fast.
- Step back from your hot subject to walk close to it.
- Do something real to see something intangible.
- Move your hands and body to move your mind and imagination.
- Look sideways to see directly.
- Look wide to see narrowly.
- Look at what you hate to recognize what you fear and dont like in
yourself. Hear your criticisms to see your inadequacies.
- Notice what you avoid to recognize what you need to learn next.
- Notice when and where you dabble, doodle and dawdle to see your dreams.