No.2 – “Making it Practical”

It’s a common situation – you’ve been on a so-called ‘soft skills’ course (whether it’s based on NLP, EQ, or any other form of interpersonal skills training) – it was really interesting and you gained some valuable insights. However, once you’re back in the ‘real world’, your everyday issues and pressures come back again, and it seems to become increasingly hard to find opportunities to practise your new skills and develop them further.

It’s a scenario that many people have fed back to us over the years, so in this edition I wanted to remind you of some simple ways to practise new skills, so you can more quickly move from conscious to unconscious competence.  One of the best ways is to start by raising your awareness of others’ behaviour in situations where there is no necessity for you to intervene.

For example…

  • Next time you’re in a meeting, or anywhere where there are groups of people talking together, listen for particular patterns of language.
    • In NLP terms this could include patterns of representational systems language (see, hear, feel) and other ‘filters’. Or, if you’re familiar with Robert Dilts’ ‘Logical Levels’ model, and the Graves Values Model, ask yourself “at what level or levels must they be thinking in order to express themselves in that way”?
    • What kind of metaphors are being used – e.g. expressions like “it’s a battleground out there and we have to fight for what we want”, “sowing the seeds of success now will reap rewards in the future”.
    • Listen to their vocal characteristics, and pay close attention to the speed, volume, rhythm, intonation, etc of their voice? Then consider, if you were going to match one of the people speaking, what adjustments would you have to make in your voice to do that?
  • If you can’t hear what’s being said, pay attention to body language.
    • Who’s influencing who? If one person makes a change in their body language (posture, gestures, etc), do others do something similar after 30 seconds or so? This will happen quite unconsciously, but is a good indicator of who is the (unconscious) leader in the group, and therefore the one who is likely to have the most influence.
    • Linked to this is the question of whether or not they are in rapport – and how do you know?
  • If you sense someone has changed their emotional state (e.g. calm to frustrated, tense to relaxed, confused to confident) – rather than just applying a ‘label’ to it, ask yourself what it is you’re picking up or responding to. For example…
    • What specifically has changed in their demeanour – changes in skin tone, muscle tension in face (around eyes and mouth), body position/posture?
    • Vocal changes – is the tone of their voice harder or softer, is their volume louder or quieter, is their speed of speech faster or slower?
    • Have the language patterns they’re using changed?

And even if there’s no-one else around you still have yourself…

  • When you’re operating at your best, pay attention to the relationship between your internal dialogue and how you’re feeling?
  • How are you thinking about yourself? What do you believe to be true/not true about yourself in these situations?
  • What about when things are not going so well? What’s different?
  • What happens if you change the words you’re using internally, and/or your tone of voice?

Raising your awareness in this way will really build your confidence and ensure the new skills become ‘normal’ for you – part of who you are and what you do – as quickly as possible. Then, when you’re required to interact with someone or intervene in some way when it really matters, you’ll need to pay little, if any, attention to using them consciously.

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