March 2nd, 2013

Street Fighter


I've been reading this fascinating and disheartening series on LinkedIn by Tony Robbins. Fascinating because it breaks down into individual components why people see the world differently - far more prismatic than binary introvert/extrovert or optimist/pessimist. It goes deep into the way people perceive things, and how they process what they see based on these sweeping-yet-numerous differences in perception and processing. He calls these metaprograms.

Tony Robbins uses examples to explain. Some people first notice and remark on differences in patterns then later similarities while other notice and remark on similarities before differences. While not an entirely compelling observation individually, coupled with those who establish trust immediately and irrevocably to those who require frequent reinforcement and the differences in people who move "toward" things (pleasure) as opposed to those who move "away" from things (pain), he starts painting a deep profile of how to communicate differently. He even brings up one of my favorite subjects, intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation - which he calls internal or external frames of reference. Given that none of us are fully one direction or fully its obverse - tending to fall somewhere along the spectrum - it would seem awfully difficult to definitively label anyone especially given the exponential combinations we as a species score on those numerous metatrprograms. Nor has he released his next chapter, "Possibility versus Necessity" (I can already guess where I fall on that one).

I find all of this disheartening because its a lot of freaking work to try to bend to each individual's communication requirements - meet their individualized expectations. Of course he's speaking to those who's job it is to do so. Myself? After absorbing all of this information, I am of the mind that I expect those who's communication styles may differ to be aware of that aspect of their personality themselves. I will meet them halfway. It would be absurd for me to expect them to communicate with me flawlessly, and if they have a similar expectation it is my duty to point out the flaw in that logic so we can fulfill each other's expectations. I'm not going to do all the heavy lifting alone.

This becomes problematic because if someone is not communicating well with me, my initial reaction isn't to take offense - rather try to work out the kinks so we can reach mutual understanding. This is near impossible for those who's initial reaction is some form of limited comprehension about these things usually manifesting itself as defensiveness. There are simply too many diverse ignorance's for me to individually address without being met halfway.

I don't want to talk, I want to communicate. And if someone isn't communicating well, I will alter my approach - ask leading questions - to some this feels like an interrogation! They don't know why they hold the opinions they do but they should certainly never be questioned! Where's the mutual understanding in that? I don't know what Tony Robbins would have to say about those who do fall on the extreme end of each of his scales, except this, "They can modify their strategies to some extent, but only if someone talks to them in their own language...It takes tremendous effort and patience."

Here's a social engineering example to try at home: Approach anyone with some new ideas about ways to think or behave or motivate; inject politics or religion or money or race or sex and see how long it takes them to utter the words, "I shouldn't have to change."

That is my new benchmark, and I now fully realize the breadth it encompasses. Even perhaps unconsciously, people who say that mean it and it applies far more liberally than they are letting on. No amount of "effort and patience" can change another person. Ironically, the person who claims, "I shouldn't have to change" seemingly expects the sender to change to accommodate their requirements. When they state their absolute, it applies only to them - its not a globally applicable statement. Truly a fascinating psychology.

As for me, "Game Over."