Not so long ago, I grabbed lunch with my friend Jim; while waiting for our food, we noticed a couple made up of goths taking a seat close to us.
My friend slowly frowned towards them; this stimulated my curiosity, and so I asked him, “What is the matter, Jim?”
Jim took a second before answering, “Why are there people that dress so strange?”
I noticed from my friend’s voice that he was uncomfortable. Before I answered, I paused for a moment, and I looked back towards the couple, sadly, I could see the waitress and my friend Jim shared the same facial expression.
I decided to find out the truth behind my friend’s behavior, so I modified my question and asked again, “Why are you looking at them like that?”
I became quiet,¹, and I let my friend speak without judgment or interruptions.
If I took an aggressive position, two things were going to happen. The first is that my friend would have turned defensive, hiding the truth behind his intentions. The second thing is that we would have ended up angry about a topic that did not affect us directly.
Jim looked up to the roof thoughtfully. He knew that I wanted a concise answer that I wanted to find the truth behind his thoughts, and this stopped him from blurting out the first irrationality that came to mind. After some reflection, he hesitantly said, “I just think it is weird that there are people that dress so…”
Jim paused for a moment; he did not want to sound rude because he thought that I would get angry at him, so I decided to intervene, “Just say it, Jim, I am the only one listening to you, and I promise not to judge. I am genuinely interested in what you are thinking.”
Jim’s shoulders relaxed, and he smiled; I had just created a safe space for my friend to express himself.
That day I had a fruitful conversation with my good friend about being different, how it is something important in life, how even the most average Joe can be exceptional and how this can propel you forward in life.²
Beith that your desire is to influence other’s opinions,³ making deeper connections or merely understanding what those around you are thinking; The first step is to discover the hidden thought of people by the creation of a safe space.
Safe Space is defined as the zone in which the person you are talking with can enjoy their freedom of speech with you.
Respect superficial opinions in order to understand personal thoughts. We have an inclination towards dishonesty, maybe we want to shield our partner,⁴ escape an uncomfortable situation or avoid being judged, we tend to avoid the truth. Our mind screams
Igor Ryzov,⁵ author of 2016s best business Russian book, explains that the same question or variations have to be asked at least twice, mostly three times to get a truthful answer, so keep an open mind and practice patience.
The key is allowing others to express freely, even if you do not agree with them. Do not interrupt.
Interruptions kill ideas.
Besides, you may end up fighting over superficial, irrelevant topics.
With the Safe Space Technique, you allow others to elaborate on their internal motives.
Do not fight over facial expressions, understand the meaning behind it. Do not react immediately to expressions, pause, think for a moment what your answer will be, and then speak.
By pausing, you make time for the other person to reflect on their attitude, at the same time, you demonstrate a mature reaction opposite to a reactive response.
There is a powerful technique for dealing with personal and ideological attacks; avoid fights with this Technique. You can find it in Igor Ryzov’s book, it is used by the Russian Secret Service to negotiate, but You can use it in any discussion.
The Technique is based on partially agreeing to contrasting ideas; it demonstrates that you are not against them and that you will not follow personal attacks.
Going back to my conversation with Jim, he mentioned the dressing code of Goths, to which I answered later, “Yeah, they are not dressed according to the norm, but…” I did not fight over how strange they dressed. Instead, I decided to take another approach, which permitted a better flow of information.
With the Partial Agreement Technique opposing parties lower their defenses, allowing for a more in-depth exploration of their thoughts; apart from that, the person will open their mind, and it’s easier to listen in this state. Just as a disclaimer, this technique should only be used to deflect non-personal, non-aggressive attacks; this is not useful for insults or threats to you or anything you represent.
Creating a safe space is useful for understanding feelings, ideologies, and postures. Pause for a moment and then use the Partial Agreement Technique to have a more profound impact.
Influence people without confrontations, and communicate like a leader⁶ with The Art of Discussion; Safe Space.
- Silence is the key to communication, learn how to use it with The Art of Discussion; Silence.
- Learn how to have an unfair advantage by exploiting what makes you unique in The Art of Excellence; Differentiate.
- Convince and lead better discussions with The Art of Discussion; Negotiate.
- Live your dream relationship with The Art of Truth; Improve Your Relationship.
- Encuentra esta y otras técnicas en The Kremlin School of Negotiation.
- Overcome fear and become a leader with The Art of Excellence; Lead.