Reducing Friction

We waste a ton of our personal energy due to friction between ourselves and others. Most of that friction occurs unconsciously and is totally avoidable.

Each of us has a preferred set of reactions to people and situations. You may be talkative while I may be warmly methodical. You may be detail-oriented where I tend to push to get stuff done. Where my preferred set of reactions (called my “style”) is different than yours, we become defensive with each other and the friction between us rises.

We see each other’s style through pace of speech, tone of speech, body language, and how we prefer to deal with information. At the base of our brains, a prehistoric lump of dendrites and axons maintains a constant vigil. This lump’s job is to keep us safe by comparing what we are currently sensing to what has caused (emotional) pain in the past. When the lump notices another person using a style different than our own, it sounds the alarm; we become defensive (in different ways depending on our styles) even before we are consciously aware of it. Friction then arises from the defensiveness in the forms of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and conflict.

We can sidestep this defensiveness by inviting each other’s lump to relax. By temporarily flexing our pace of speech, tone of speech, body language, and information presentation to match the other’s style, we can reduce or eliminate most of the friction. A few seconds of flexing is often all you need. It works even if the other person knows that you are flexing to them. You’ll know it’s working when the other person starts flexing back to your style. And when trust and effectiveness rise.


In your corner,



PS: Give it a shot. Find someone who gets under your skin or with whom you’ve had trouble working. In your next interaction with that person, flex your pace of speech, tone of speech, body language, and information presentation to meet her or his style. Works a charm.

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