When confronted with an unusual or complex situation involving other people, how do we make sense of what’s going on? Do we examine it from only our own point of view? Or do we have the capability to step outside our own experience and imagine the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of another?
In his book To Sell is Human, Daniel Pink says that perspective-taking is at the heart of your ability to move others.
What does he mean by attunement? It’s the “ability to bring one’s actions and outlook into harmony with other people and with the context you’re in.”
Pink says attunement rests on three principles:
- Increase your power by reducing it.
- Use your head as much as your heart.
- Mimic strategically.
Increase your power by reducing it.
When you reduce your power, you actually increase it. When you have power or assume power, it can distort your ability to perceive others. It scrambles the signal. When you reduce your sense of power you are more able to become attuned to others.
Even when you write, adopt this attitude of reduced power and your writing will convey a more open attitude towards others.
What would that writing look like? It would express an openness to the reader, to a different point of view.
You would ask more questions. You would be more likely to inquire: “Has this been your experience? What has it been like for you?”
What you are trying to do is take the perspective of the other. If you are familiar generally with the perspective of your customers, then you can adopt that perspective. But even if you are unfamiliar, when you write to them – email, blog post, personal communication – you will be more influential if you work mentally to take their perspective.
2. Use your head as much as your heart.
When you use your heart, you employ empathy. When you use your head, you take their perspective. Studies have shown that perspective taking more strongly influences another person than simply empathic feelings.
With perspective taking, you are more likely to discover creative solutions and the self-interest of the other.
Perspective taking allows you to calibrate properly between the needs of the other and your own needs.
Perspective-taking goes beyond the individual you are working with. It extends to the other relationships in which your opposite is embedded. In the world of moving others, Pink calls this “social cartography.” He emphasizes the need to “size up a situation, and in one’s mind, draw a map of how people are related. Social cartography lets you “properly allocate time, energy and effort to the right relationships.” You don’t miss any critical players and you focus the right amount of energy on the right people.
So how does this work in writing instead of interacting? In some ways, perspective-taking is easier that empathy when you are writing. Assume that your customers have similar problems, interests, and motivations in their relationship to you. As you learn about them and learn how to take their perspective, you can include this perspective when you write, even though you have never interacted with many of the readers of your email.
3. Mimic strategically.
Mimicry is a natural human behavior. Scientists see mimicry as “deeply human, a natural act that serves as a social glue and a sign of trust.” Mimicry is thought to have evolved as a way to evaluate whether we could trust a person that we didn’t know. We look for cues to see if we are in synch with that other person. We look to see if their behavior patterns match our own.
Some examples: waitresses who repeat orders word-for-word receive larger tips. More customers make a purchase from a retail clerk if the clerk mimics the customers.
In writing, you can’t interact directly and mimic your readers. But you can study your customers and learn characteristics you can mimic. This could include use of specialized terms, your tone, or slang. You have to be careful though. You don’t want to come off as phony or trying too hard.
Next time, before you start writing to your customers, take a moment to attune yourself to them. Reduce your sense of power in relation to them. Take their perspective. Get in synch with them.