A guest post from communication experts Dr. Rick Brinkman and Dr. Rick Kirschner:
Allow us to tell you about a basic communication skill that is absolutely necessary if you want to bring out the best in people at their worst. Its called BLENDING. The good news is, you already know how to do it. The bad news is, its the last thing that would normally occur to you when dealing with difficult people. When we say you know how to do it, we realize that were making a huge assumption. Were assuming that you have at least one friend. Blending is how you build friendship. Its what you do automatically when you care about people, and voluntarily when there is a great deal of agreement about a mission.
But what exactly is blending? Blending is what we call when you reduce differences between yourself and another person. Said another way, its all about sending signals of similarity; finding common ground and common interest, creating a context or opportunity where people can stand together and talk before moving forward in a new direction. Fail to blend, fail to find common ground, and you will find it darn near impossible to get a difficult person to stop being difficult.
Why? Because in human relationships, when theres conflict or difficulty, or strong feelings in play, theres a basic rule of relationships that you must take into account. Heres the rule: Nobody cooperates with anybody who seems to be against them.
So how is it possible to blend with someone behaving badly in a way that doesnt compromise your own integrity? The answer can be found in a study from 1967, when a Professor Albert Mehrabian at the University of California in Los Angeles became fascinated with the ability of people to make sense out of mixed messages.
The context was communicating with feeling. He broke communication down into what you see, what you hear and what is actually said, and came to the conclusion that 55% of the meaning people make is based on what it looks like somebody is saying. 38% what it sounds like theyre saying. And only 7% is based on what theyre saying. This is how it is possible to take four simple words, say them 100 different ways to mean a thousand different things to a million different people.
What is the value of blending? It allows you to identify something about people that you can have in common, so you can meet them where they are before redirecting them to where you want them to go.
With a little bit of training, you can learn to blend with just about anyone on just about any topic. And meeting people where they are is the best place to meet them if you want them to move forward with you.