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Build better rapport by listening

Jay Parks

October 3, 2017

I’ve noticed what I call the “me too syndrome.”

Here’s an example. You’re talking to someone who says his or her back hurts. The next thing we say is, “Oh, me too. My back hurts, and my knee hurts. It’s amazing that I’m able to get out of bed.”

It can happen when people says something about their in-laws, their husband, their wife, their kids, or their boss. We’re always tempted to one-up them. We start out with “me too,” then add something else.

The problem is that “me too” blocks the one thing everybody wants—to be heard.

Your young child wants to be heard. “Mommy, mommy, mommy.” Your spouse wants to be heard. Your friends, customers, and co-workers want to be heard.

The moment you say “me too,” you’ve discounted what someone is saying to you. You’re sending the message that they don’t matter, what they said is irrelevant, and you just want to talk about yourself.

Yes, I’m attempting to engage you with “me too,” but my intentions don’t matter. In reality, when I say “me too,” I just stopped listening to you.

The “me too syndrome” detracts from fostering the relationships we desire—as entrepreneurs and as people trying to help other people.

Most of us don’t understand how counterproductive saying “me too” is. We’re coming from a good spot. We want to talk to you, to engage you. But instead of saying something to that effect, we say “me too.”

How can you replace “me too?” The simple alternative goes like this: “That’s fascinating. Tell me more.”

When someone says his or her back hurts, you can respond: “Your back hurts? What part of your back? So, does it go down in your leg? Does it go down to your knee? Tell me more.”

As a coach, I challenge people by saying, “For one day, don’t make it about you. Be very, very specific and conscientious when somebody says something about their back, their husband, their wife, or their boss.”

My coaching continues with advising them to say, “Wow, tell me more.”

I’m amazed that most people report back to me and say, “I’ve had these unbelievably in-depth conversations.”

The cool part about this approach is we still get what we wanted.

When I said “me too,” I wanted to engage in an involved conservation, but I did it in a disrespectful way. When I say, “tell me more,” I engage in a conversation that goes on and on. Eventually, the person you’re talking to will likely say, “You seem to know a lot about back pain, about it shooting down my leg and down my knee. Do you have back pain?”

It goes back to this simple premise: When I approach somebody, I know that they just want to be heard.

It doesn’t matter your religion, whether you’re male or female, or how old you are. Everybody wants to be heard.

If that’s true, let’s focus on thinking, “How am I helping you to be heard?”

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