Tracks in the Snow: How to Connect with People Who Avoid You

I trudged out in the new snow to get the morning paper, bleary-eyed from staying up too late.  On the way back to the house, I noticed the tracks.  Deer tracks. Hundreds of tiny hoof prints.  I paused, marveling at how close to the house they were.  I had never seen deer so close to my home.  But, the tracks were evidence; evidence that they do indeed come near, just not when I’m around.

What?  Don’t they like me?  Don’t they know I won’t hurt them?  Don’t they know I think they are beautiful?

OK.  I won’t take it personally.  Maybe their instincts make them wary.  Maybe they’ve encountered hunters.  Maybe they are indoctrinated at deer school with showings of “Bambi.”

Are there people in your life like those deer?  People you desperately want to see, to connect with, but all you get is “tracks in the snow?”  The teenager who leaves a trail of dirty dishes, but sits behind a closed door; the employee who picks up a paycheck, but rarely picks up the phone when you call; or the prospect who fills out the inquiry form on your website, but never returns emails?

How do you connect with them?

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Use FORM to Keep the Conversation Going!

You’ve said “Hello.”   Now what?

One of the best approaches I learned long ago for building rapport and getting the other person to talk is the FORM approach.  FORM is an acronym that stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Motivation.  The “FOR” talk helps build rapport before you delve into the “M,” what motivates a person.  Start with “FOR”ing people and work up to “FORM”ing them.  When you find out what motivates a person, you can better connect with them and sell yourself, your ideas or your products.  FORM can be adapted to business, social and dating situations!

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Lose your but!

Recently my 17 year-old daughter cleaned my house.   I know I should have had a hallelujah breakdown because  “seventeen year-old-daughter” and ”house cleaning” don’t often occur in the same sentence.  Instead, I managed to find fault.  When she was done, I said, “the house looks good.” She smiled; glad to have pleased me with her effort.  But then I added, “but you missed the edges of the floor in the bathroom,” and her smile faded into discouragement. 

Ouch.  I should have lost my “but.”  Read more of this post

The Pygmalion Effect–The Importance of Expectations

“Well, at least I received a fairly high rating on “encouragement,” I thought as I glanced at the “Trainer Observation Form” that my supervisor on my new, very part-time job handed me a few days ago.  She had been taking notes discretely on my performance during my 3rd training session with a student (as a cognitive skills trainer).  Although I felt good that I had been encouraging to the student, it was disheartening to see some other areas that fell in the column “needs improvement.”  My supervisor did say that the “needs improvement” areas were pretty normal for a beginning trainer, but it was still slightly de-motivating to receive the somewhat negative feedback. 

Reflecting on my feelings a few days later, I considered the influence of expectations and feedback on performance.  If I have high expectations of someone (or even myself), my feedback tends to accentuate the positives and downplay the negatives, which usually results in a desire to improve performance.  On the other hand, if I have low expectations, my feedback tends to focus more on the negatives and performance typically suffers.  A performance rating doesn’t just sum up the past; it can affect or determine the future.

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How to Be Kind when Criticizing Others

“You missed a spot!”

“You’re leaving the house looking like that?”

Criticism. Does anyone truly enjoy receiving criticism? Does anyone truly enjoy giving criticism? It’s hard to criticize without causing anger, hurt or defensiveness. You could take the ostrich approach and just bury your head in the sand and ignore others’ failings. Sometimes that is the best approach, especially for trivial matters. However, just because people don’t like being criticized, that doesn’t mean we can avoid doing it. If we allow people to continue doing the wrong thing, we build up feelings of resentment. The secret is to criticize with kindness, and sparingly.

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Dress Up Your Naked Thank You’s!

As a small child I was taught to say “thank you” as an automatic response, a knee-jerk verbal reflex to smooth social interactions.  A kindergartner who says “thank you” at the appropriate time is to be commended!  Personally, I say “thank you” quite often—to the checkout person at the store, to the lady who cuts my hair, and even to my son when he takes out the garbage.  But, maybe it’s time I matured beyond the kindergarten-level of expressing gratitude.

After listening to a friend, Mark Ziegler, present a talk this weekend on forgiveness and gratitude, I have come to realize that I could express my gratitude in a much more powerful way.  Or, as author Leil Lowndes mentions in her book  How to talk to anyone : 62 little tricks for big success in relationships,  I need to “dress up” my “naked” thank you.

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Embracing a Shadow–Technology-enabled Communication

An online relationship with Robert never would have worked. He didn’t email, text, Twitter or update a Facebook status. When we met in 1993, people didn’t have those modes of communication available anyway. Well, a few people had email, but I didn’t use email until 1997!

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