It’s fairly important to develop an accurate awareness of the source from which another individual is interfacing with you. For example, if your colleague Bob says something to you, feeling that you are clear it was said from a mean-spirited place will trigger response A (say a response that allows you to defend yourself) whereas feeling clear it was said in good fun will trigger response B (say a laugh or lighthearted response).
This can sometimes be more difficult than it sounds. Words can have multiple meanings, tone of voice and body language can be subject to interpretation and the true source of where something came from can be distorted on its trip from the speakers brain to his/her mouth.
Why Does This Matter?
The truth is, in human interaction, knowing the motivations of the person you are interacting with is practically all that matters, and, this is a truth that people inherently know. Imagine you are walking by someone in your office and their foot sticks out as you walk by and you trip and fall. If they react by laughing and pointing at you, you might have to be held back from getting up to sock them in the nose. If they react with an “Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry!!” you are likely to graciously brush off the apology and move on. Same act, entirely different reaction based on your understanding of the source of the act.
Tracing an Act or Statement Back to Its Source
So understanding the source someone is interacting with you from is important. The better we get at it, the more equipped we are to handle the varied things life throws at us, and the better we will be able to identify how person A usually deals with you versus person B and the more prepared you will be before even coming face to face with them. But, as we pointed out it can be complicated to sort out the place something is coming from.
The method I have found most helpful in this regard is thinking about where something originates in people (both myself and others) as coming from the back of the brain (as you can hopefully see in my incredibly crude Photoshop job and simplification of the brain segments in the image below). That is, I can increase my chances of determining the source of an interaction by simplifying its analysis in my own head by asking my imagination to show me visually which part of the brain it sees the interaction as coming from. Where, I ask, do you see that interaction originating in Bob’s brain?
This method can be especially powerful because as the ‘thought’ travels from its source in the back of the speakers brain through the middle of the brain, through the front of the brain and finally out the mouth, ‘wrappers’ are often added around the thought. For example, a thought originating from the ‘mean spirited’ part of the brain can be wrapped in a ‘nice’ wrapper as it passes through the middle and front of the brain and out the mouth. The wrapper can be a distraction to the listener, couching the fact that the comment’s source was mean-spiritedness. You may not choose to respond to a mean-spirited sourced comment but you are most definitely at an advantage in understanding where the interaction originated.
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- About the Author
Nathan Safran is a former Analyst at Forrester Research where he covered the Digital Home. While at Forrester, Nathan authored research studies on trends, attitudes and behaviors of consumers toward technology adoption and use.
Nathan has been quoted as a subject matter expert in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Fortune magazine. Currently, Nathan heads the Research Department at Conductor, Inc an SEO Technology Platform firm.
Nathan writes at exceljockey.com about the intersection of Business, Technology and Psychology. See the About page for more info. Follow Nathan on Twitter: @Nathan_Safran