How to talk to people

I am going to mention a book and an interview in this post and want to emphasize from the outset that I am just using these items as a springboard to briefly say something about generalized techniques for communication or getting along with people. My comments have next to nothing to do with the authors of the book or what they say in the interview. I haven’t read the book and don’t know anything about it.

That said, I for one, can’t stand it when people consciously use communication techniques when they talk to me. I can see a place for this sort of thing for salespeople or people who often have to deal with the public. No problem there. What bothers me is when people use these kinds of techniques with friends and even spouses.

I am sure I don’t always spot it when someone does use a technique with me, but often I do. I see it as a kind of lying or a way of deceiving your interlocutor so you can get something from them. Even if all you are getting is companionship or friendship, it still seems low to me to employ techniques you have read in a book or learned in a seminar. No doubt many benefit from those sorts of books and seminars, but many of these techniques are indistinguishable from outright manipulation. I don’t see them as a good way to deal honestly with friends.

Some of the techniques I am talking about are deliberately using positive language for effect; speaking briefly with special intent; smiling more than you feel; deliberately mirroring others’ expressions, gestures, tones of voice, word choices, etc.; using people’s first names as a way to get close to them; hugging people for the same reason; pretending to agree when you don’t; omitting important facts to keep things “positive”, and so on.

I got started on this post after reading an interview at this link: Your words matter. As mentioned, this is probably a very worthy book by two very worthy people. The interview just caused me to think about how much it bothers me that we humans are forced to spend so much of our time in inauthentic communication with others.

Life is too short to be working angles or using techniques with friends and loved ones. For one thing, when we do that we are withholding our deep selves from the people we most care about. And for another thing, those same people will be able to sense what we are doing. At some level, they will feel that that they are being manipulated.

We often refer to FIML as a technique, but it is not a general technique like the ones described above. FIML is a process that helps partners dispense with techniques, manipulation, and all other kinds of bullshit and misunderstanding that can, and will, harm their relationships if not dealt with.

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