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FJP Investment CEO, Jamie Johnson, shares some thoughts with us on his years of experience with careful listening and his understanding of the basic principles of analysing words. Attentive listening skills will serve you well both in business and in your personal life.
When people are not truthful, such as being forthright about their feelings of concern about something, they rarely tell direct lies. Rather, they will employ deception instead. This is because direct lies (a fabrication of reality) place stress on the brain, whereas deception is different. Deception usually entails leaving out information that is important, often without even realising it, which is less stressful.
Pronouns and Names
Pay close attention to pronouns and names that are used. How someone uses these gives insight into their mindset. It conveys how they regard the person, object, or event they are speaking about. It’s important to note that context is important. Are you speaking with or reading a report from an employee, in business discussions, or conversing in a personal or casual setting?
Pronouns speak to the qualities of a) cooperation and b) possession.
“Am happy with the job” is very different from saying “I am happy with my job.” Here, the speaker is missing a) the pronoun “I” and b) the possessive pronoun “my”. Pronouns are instinctive and used without thought. The missing pronoun “I”, here, indicates that the speaker is not psychologically committed to their words. It means there is distancing in their language. What that distance is, we do not know, but there is distance. Furthermore, without taking possession of the job with “my” indicates further psychological distancing for their own words.
The possibilities are numerous and include:
- a) The person is not happy with their job. Their lack of psychological commitment to their words meant that their brain was unable to choose the instinctive pronoun “I”. They are not technically lying – and thus less stressful – because they are not committing to their words.
- b) They were happy in their job but not currently.
- c) Something else.
Observing psychological commitment with pronouns in speech or lack thereof can give one insight into someone’s thinking. In the scenario above, be aware of potential issues and seek to discern why the dropped pronouns. Why the hesitancy? Is there an issue with the employee that they are bottling up inside?
“The boss drove me to the meeting” is different from saying “We went to the meeting together”. The pronoun “we” is a strong indication of cooperation in the mind of the speaker. Whenever “we” pops up, there is unity and cooperation on their mind.
Also, note the missing possessive pronoun “my.” “The boss” is different from “my boss”, a further indication of distancing language being used. This is not necessarily a negative thing, it depends, as always, on the context of communication.
The speaker could also have said something like, “My boss Jack drove me to the meeting,” using the boss’ name instead of “the boss.” Here, we have a complete social introduction (My boss Jack) which indicates a positive working relationship in the mind of the speaker.
Pay attention to when someone uses pronouns or names, and when they don’t use them when one is expected. Names bring someone closer to the person they are talking about, and pronouns speak of ownership and cooperation.
Need to Persuade
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” is a line from the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare. It is a good example of when someone has a need to persuade. We should take note when it shows up in someone’s language.
I have learnt that the truth and sincerity stand on their own strength; it doesn’t require the need to persuade. Ironically, the stronger the need to persuade of something the more it portrays weakness in what they are saying. They may even be trying to convince themselves. Truthful, honest, and sincere words stand behind a psychological wall of truth and do not need boosting with additional persuasion.
“Absolutely 200% without any doubt whatsoever. It’s God’s honest truth. Not lying to you. ”
Note the extreme need to persuade. A more truthful statement would be along the lines of “I am telling the truth,” employing the use of a possessive pronoun “I”, and lacking an excessive need to persuade.
Whenever we encounter an over-the-top need to persuade of something, we should pause and consider why the need to persuade? Sincere and straight forward reporting doesn’t require excessive psychological support in the form of extra persuasion.
Order Speaks to Priority
Paying attention to someone’s order of priority can afford useful insight.
Make a list of, say, what you would like to achieve in the next five or ten years, or the things you would like to see changed in your company, and you will likely start with the most important things first. This is because humans have a strong tendency to prioritise what’s most important to them.
Alternatively, ask your kids about their friends at school or in their class. They are very likely to give the names of kids that are a priority to them, first. It could be because they like them better, that they are best friends etc, or, conversely, they are a priority in their mind because of something that is bothering them. Whatever it is, humans tend to state the things first that are a priority for them, good and bad.
This understanding can be useful in many settings. For example, when conducting interviews or conducting business negotiations, take note of what their priorities are. They will very likely be mentioned in order of priority.
Listen very carefully to what people are telling you.
There is much more to be discerned than just listening superficially. People tend to interpret what others are saying, leaning towards biases of what we would like them to say, or even not say. Put aside any biases and personal views you have and listen carefully to what others are telling you. Such listening skills, and indeed practice, will serve you well in business and in your personal life. It also shows sincerity of character.