Sunday, December 31, 2006

Step Two: Empathy

"I Can Identify with That!" As your Quarry is speaking, the next step is for you to imply rapport. Let your Quarry know you understand and agree with what he or she is saying. Accomplish this by sprinkling noises or phrases of empathy, understanding, and sympathy—and occasionally your Quarry's name—throughout your conversation. You can make simple sounds such as "Um, hum" or a purring "mmm-mmm." Or you can mouth supportive phrases like ''I can understand how you felt," "I can identify with that,'' "I sympathize with you," "I can imagine," or "I'd have done the same thing in your shoes." Use your Quarry's name at well-timed moments. It punctuates the conversation and serves as a potent empathizer. Here is a conversation, slightly exaggerated, which employs empathizers and well-timed use of your Quarry's name. Let's say you are discussing tennis with a Potential Love Partner to whom you've just been introduced at a party. Quarry: "No, I haven't played tennis in years. I love tennis, but I broke a couple of fingers in a car accident." You: "Oh, that's heart-breaking [empathizer]. You must miss tennis a lot [another empathizer]." Quarry: "Yeah, I really do. I used to play every week." You: "Oh, I understand how you feel [empathizer]. It's awful to want to do something so badly and not be able to. Have you found anything to replace your tennis?" Quarry: "As a matter of fact, yes. Now I do a lot of in-line skating. And I love it—especially the speed." You: "Oh, that's great, John [using your Quarry's name]. I can identify with that because I love speed, too [more empathizers]." Obviously you wouldn't use empathizers in nearly every sentence, as the overanxious Hunter above did. In moderation, however, powdering your conversation with them soothes your Quarry's ego and makes him or her want to tell you more. A word of warning. You do not want to come across as a fawning supplicant. Good body language is your insurance policy against that. Be sure to maintain your own poise and assured body position while you empathize with your Quarry. TECHNIQUE #33: EMPLOY EMPATHIZERS Sprinkle empathetic phrases throughout your conversation with your Quarry. Dust your first discussion with phrases like "I see what you mean," "Yes, you were right," "I can relate to that,'' and the all-time favorite, ''I understand." Many men think, early in a relationship, they must impress their female Quarry by telling her something wonderful, unique, interesting, or original about themselves. They try to captivate her with an interesting story, an amazing fact, a hilarious joke. Even today, most men feel they must display more insights or show more knowledge to boost their status in a relationship. No, gentlemen. Early in a relationship it is more effective by far to show empathy with her if your goal is to have her love you. Traditionally, women are not accustomed to having the focus on themselves when they are talking with a new man. Your Quarry will find you very special if you keep the spotlight on her. (Don't worry, gentlemen—you will have your chance to shine. A woman's instinct is to turn the warm rays around to you.) In a new friendship, the smallest detail about their own lives is more interesting to most people than the most fascinating aspect of yours. That may change as you become more intimate friends, but, for the moment, your Quarry will find you more interesting if you concentrate on him or her. TECHNIQUE #34: KEEP THE SPOTLIGHT ON YOUR QUARRY Think of your conversation with your Quarry as a giant spotlight. Every time it is shining on your Quarry, he or she is engrossed. If the spotlight revolves around to you or is aimed at someone or something else, your Quarry will find the conversation (and, therefore, you) less interesting. Lovers Share Intimate Details Everyone is the star of a novel called My Life. Everybody feels "I'm special" and "Everything I do is memorable." Here's the key: People find others who share their opinion irresistible. I grew up reading Nancy Drew novels. Nancy was the young detective heroine whose life was so exciting. So glamorous. So romantic. So everything my teenage life wasn't. Each book in the series began melodramatically: "Nancy, her long hair flowing in the wind, raced across the moors sensing something was awry at Grandmother's house." Wow! In my daydreams, I wrote novels about my life: "Leil, her braces gleaming in the sunshine, bounded into the house smelling that Mother had let a pot boil over on the stove." Well, my turning off the stove was not such a big feat as Nancy Drew's bounding off to solve a crime, but it was my life, therefore exciting to me. Everyone feels the same way. As your Quarry is brushing his teeth in the morning he is faced with momentous decisions like what to have for breakfast, which shoes to wear today, or whether to take time to floss or not. Husbands, wives, and lovers share their minutiae. "What do you want for breakfast, honey? You're not going to wear those shoes, are you? Did you remember to floss?" Obviously, when you meet a new Quarry, you can't feign interest in what she had for breakfast or whether he flossed or forgot. But you can create another immediate intimacy. Simply make a point to remember the intimate details of her life. Clever Hunters cater to their Quarry's craving to be a star through a technique I call tracking. Just like air traffic controllers track aircraft on their radar screens, clever Hunters track the verbal traffic of their Quarry. If, in early conversation with your Quarry, he mentions he had Rice Krispies for breakfast, allude to it later. If, in chatting, she tells you she wore mismatched shoes to work one day, find a way to let the subject come up again later. It shows she is a memorable star in the galaxy of people you've met. Over time, such trifling pebbles meld to form rocks of intimacy. As a relationship goes on, wise lovers keep a mental little black book of their Quarry's last concern, last enthusiasm, last conversation. They keep track of where their Quarry went, what their Quarry said, and what he or she was doing since they last spoke. When they talk again, the first words out of their mouth, either on the phone or in person, refers to it: "Joe? Hi! How did your meeting go? Hello, Linda. Did your sister have her baby yet? So, Jim, did you survive that Szechuan restaurant you were going to last time we spoke? Diane, how's your toothache now?" TECHNIQUE #35: TRACKING Like an air traffic controller, track the tiniest details of your Quarry's life. Refer to them in your conversation like a major news story. When you invoke the last major or minor event in anyone's life, it confirms what they've known all along. They're the leading character in that riveting novel, My Life. They will love you for recognizing their stardom. Let your Quarry feel that minor events in his or her life are major concerns in yours. Lovers Have Private Jokes Here is another delectable way to milk your Quarry's ego and squeeze out the first drops of love, even before it's suitable to give a full-blown compliment. Happy, intimate couples share private jokes. They whisper phrases in each other's ears that mean nothing to anyone in the world but themselves. With no lengthy explanation, playwright Neil Simon can make an entire Broadway audience understand that two performers on stage are either married or longtime lovers. Simon has the performers exchange a few words which make no sense to the audience, then both of them crack up. The audience gets the message: These two people are an item. You can create a similar impression of intimacy with your new Quarry. Simply find a private joke shared by just the two of you. Here's how to set it up. Whenever your new Quarry is telling a story, either to you or to a group, remember some part of it that he or she obviously delights in. Then weave a phrase, a little joke, that invokes your Quarry's favorite part. Occasionally, I go out with an English chap named Charles. When I first spotted Charles at a party, he was telling a group of friends about his hiking trip in the mountains with several other men. A few hours into their expedition, Charles told us, they came upon a steep mountain covered with loose falling rocks. He and his mates didn't want to scale the dangerous terrain, but of course none of the macho men, including Charles, would admit they were afraid. Charles happened to have a large thermos of hot tea in his backpack. As the brave hikers stood there gazing up at the peak skeptically like frightened little boys, Charles made a suggestion. In his terribly British accent, he proposed, "Oh, do let's have a cup of tea first." Great idea! Everyone dove for a seat. As they squatted on the rocks gulping tea, they planned an alternate, safer route. Charles didn't say it in so many words, but the unspoken point of his story was that he, Charles, had saved the day and, possibly, their lives by his line, "Oh, do let's have a cup of tea first." Later on in the party, Charles suggested the host turn on the television to catch the end of an English rugby game being broadcast that evening. Everybody at the party thought that was a terrible idea. I winked at Charles and said, "Oh, do let's have a cup of tea first." He cracked up. I think that was the first time he noticed me. TECHNIQUE #36: PRIVATE JOKE To create premature intimacy, listen carefully while your new Quarry is telling a story. Then pick out a phrase that he or she obviously relishes. Caption this favorite passage and repeat it back to your Quarry later in the conversation to make him or her feel very special. You now share a private joke, just like longtime lovers. As with all sensitive communication techniques, you must heed a few cautions. Caution number one: Only choose events where your Quarry shines—where he or she was the hero of the story, not the buffoon. Some people tease their friends about the time they spilled the drink, lost the keys, cracked up the car, or slipped on the banana peel. That's called heckling, and it has the opposite effect. Caution number two: After you hear your Quarry's story, let some time pass before you invoke the private joke for the first time. The longer the interval, the stronger the punch. Not only does creating a private joke with a new Quarry work wonders for giving a relationship liftoff, it also softens rough edges that surface later on. To this day, whenever Charles comes up with a suggestion I don't like, I simply say "Oh, do let's have a cup of tea first." He laughs every time. Charles enjoys my story so much that he forgets I'm disagreeing with him, and I usually get my way.

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