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They'll all fall

Friday, September 09, 2005

How am I supposed to tell what mood someone else is in if I can't even figure out what mood I am in?

There's a few sides to it.

First, learn to control your own state ("mood"), so you can have better baselines to compare from. There is a trick here: Calling up states from the past by using memory. Just remember a time when you felt the way you wanted to - think of the light and shade, the sound of the place, the smell, the temperature, how you sat, how the entire feeling of the place you were was, how your body moved - and you'll have it. You'll feel the same mood again. You can use the chance to create an association, too - for instance, I have a confidence association by touching my right chin.

That's called "anchoring".

Second, learn to use your senses much more carefully, to notice how people change as their mood change. There are changes in voice tone, posture, breathing, pulse, skin color (flushing), and sweating, and movement rythms. (This skill is called calibration, also talked of a "sensory acuity")

It can take time to learn. I'll start with giving you a simple exercise that you can use for getting better: Sit down. Look at a thing in the room, for instance a picture. Focus totally on it. Then keep your eyes fixed at the same spot, and try to take in the rest of the room, visually. As you see more and more with your peripheral vision, just try to feel the entire room. How all of it is. The skill sometimes comes at once, and sometimes takes some sessions to learn properly. As you try it out, you'll find out which of these it is for you. The point of the exercise is that you train in edge vision and getting a feeling of "space" from sounds, making it much easier to pick up small body language cues.

Third, learn to change a person to be in your own mood/state: First talk to them, then start to match their breathing, some of their movements, their spech rythm, etc. This happens naturally when you're talking deeply and "connecting" with them, anyway - the idea is just to be able to do it at will. (This is called matching/mirroring, or pacing, or rapport). Then, you'll be in the same state as them. Now, you can change your own state (using the skill from above), and you'll pull them along with you. At least if you change your state a little bit at a time. You now know what state both you and they are in!

Fourth, as you learn how to change your own state, you'll learn to discern what state you are in better, too. And as you change their state, you'll learn about how their body language changes. When you've learned that properly, what mood they are in will be obvious - their body language is almost screaming at you.

(From a comment I made to somebody on a website.)


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