Sunday, February 17, 2013

Be a Better Relationship Builder - Learn to ATTUNE

I came home from work on Friday and walked into a landmine.

The atmosphere in my home was thick with emotional smog. 

My daughter and husband both looked at me with what appeared to be mixture of intense frustration and despair.

My first thought was, UGH! REALLY?  I don't want to deal with this on a Friday night.  I wonder if they noticed me.  Maybe I can just slip out the door and come back in an hour. :)

My second thought (because I just finished reading Dan Pink's new book (Yes, I'm in love!)) was how can I best ATTUNE to this situation and these two precious people so that I can PERSUADE them to have a change of  heart and we can all enjoy the evening?

So I took a deep breath and said, "Hello.  I love you.  Can I help?" And it helped!

The fact that I know that I have two choices in this situation and in all conflict ridden and awkward moments is cool!  Instead of automatically reacting, I can take a breath, assess the atmosphere when I walk into a room or meeting, attune to the people present, and BE CURIOUS. 

ATTUNEMENT is something we can all learn.  And it is a POWERFUL skill for those of us who want to build successful relationships with our partners, children, bosses, colleagues, employees, DONORS, neighbors, volunteers - EVERYONE!

According to Pink there are three steps to honing your ability to ATTUNE to others and increase your ability to persuade.  See below. 

Happy relationship building!


  • Step 1: Practice being powerLESS.  It may sound counter intuitive, but when you walk into a room full of new folks, assume a level of humility.  Be curious and smaller.  This will help you to read the context and act accordingly.
"When you  have fewer're going to be more attuned to the context around you.  Think of this first principle of attunement as persuasion jujitsu: using an apparent weakness as an actual strength.  Start your encounters with the assumption that you're in a position of lower power.  The will help you see the other side's perspective more accurately, which in turn, will help you move them."

  • Step 2: Use your head as much as your heart.  When you walk into a meeting be empathic but also use your head, especially if heat is in the air.  Ask yourself, what is the dynamic going on here?  How does this person/group define success? What do they value about this interaction?  Who is in charge?  These questions will help you to develop an informed assessment of the situation.

  • Step 3: Mimic Strategically.  When you meet a new donor or stranger, do what they do - not in an overt or obnoxious way - but to show that you are reaching for them and want to understand their point of view.  This will help you to demonstrate your willingness to be in synch.
"You have to be able to somehow get in synch with people, to connect with them, whether you're with a grandmother or the recent graduate of an MBA program...This might sound strange but I call it the ability to chameleon."

  • Bonus - Make the invisible, visible.  Notice who is NOT in the room and bring them into the conversation.  (See what Amazon does below to ensure that the CUSTOMER is included in every meeting.)  Wouldn't it be great if we always left an open chair for our donors?  Brilliant.

"Jeff Bezos, the founder of, has accomplished a great deal in his 48 years. He’s reshaped the retail business. He’s become one of the 30 wealthiest people on the planet. And, with far less fanfare, he’s come up with one of the best attunement practices I’ve encountered.

Amazon, like most organizations, has lots of meetings. But at the important ones, alongside the chairs in which his executives, marketing mavens, and software jockeys take their places, Bezos includes one more chair that remains empty. It’s there to remind those assembled who’s really the most important person in the room: the customer.

The empty chair has become legendary in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Seeing it encourages meeting attendees to take the perspective of that invisible but essential person. What’s going through her mind? What are her desires and concerns? What would she think of the ideas we’re putting forward?

Try this in your own world. If you’re crafting a presentation, the empty chair can represent the audience and its interests. If you’re gathering material for a sales call, it can help generate possible objections and questions the other party might raise. If you’re preparing a lesson plan, an empty chair can remind you to see things from your students’ perspective.

Attuning yourself to others – exiting your own perspective and entering theirs – is essential to moving others. One smart, easy, and effective way to get inside people’s heads is to climb into their chairs.  You have to be able to step into another person's shoes. You have to see the world from their perspective."

*The quotes above are from To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Dan Pink.  You should buy it!


Claire Axelrad said...

Nice post Jocelyn! I already bought Pink's book (see my post on the subject -- I'm in love too!

The empty chair thing does remind me a bit too much of Clint Eastwood at the Republican National Convention, so I'm not sure I can do it w/o chuckling, but the concept of including the customer (or donor for nonprofits) in every meeting is brilliant.

Perhaps the key is to remember: The chair talks to us. We don't talk to it. Push; not pull

Jocelyn Harmon said...

Hi Claire,

Thanks for your comment! I love your post too!

We should start a Dan Pink Fan Club? Have you read Drive and A Whole New Mind too?


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