How to know what someone is thinking about you (especially under stress)

Have you ever had a conversation with a new acquaintance, business associate or client that’s gotten off on the wrong foot?

Or worse, gone totally off the rails and smashed right into the side of a building?

If so, then you probably recognize how important it is to ensure that first conversation you have with someone doesn’t end in a total wreck…or just raise some subconscious questions about your expertise, credibility or character.

And honestly – it’s the latter one that causes more business deals, partnerships and relationships to die a silent death than just about anything else.

This unaddressed skepticism needs to be avoided at all costs – but it’s something that far too many people fail to take into account when meeting others for the first time.

After all, which of these do you think is more likely to lead to a great first impression:

*Blindly guessing about what the other person thinks, wants or expects from you

*Carefully forming a clear mental picture of who they are, what they value, and how they want to be perceived

The answer is clear. And it’s something that almost every successful communicator realizes.

And this is that understanding the internal tape running in someone’s head is crucial before diving into the deep end of any conversation.

Think of it like this:

When you start a conversation with someone new, both of you are dipping your toes into the water to get a sense for each other. Perhaps you venture further into the 3-ft zone and start to discuss topics that are beyond surface level.

But going further than this is without having a clear grasp on their “Unstated Narrative” puts you at risk of treading some dangerous conversational waters.

What is an Unstated Narrative? And why does it matter so much?

To explain:

Your counterpart’s Unstated Narrative is the tape running in their head about what they believe or feel concerning every element of their lives. And in the context of your conversation, it’s how the person perceives you and how the person wants to be perceived.

Why is this so important?

Simply put, the success of your conversation is directly correlated with your ability to understand the other person.

And to understand someone, you must validate their past, present and future choices to create a sense of safety to move them to a self-directed decision. Rarely is there a direct match between how someone feels about you (the tape) and what they express in words, body language or even actions. 

That’s why it’s so important to identify this and fine-tune your communications accordingly.

The problem is that most of us don’t have a dedicated strategy to do this. And so we fire blindly and hope for the best. Or we play it safe and fail to make the impact that we want.

But it is possible to take a great first impression from “guesswork” to “guaranteed”. It all comes down to one of Chip’s most trusted principles, known as Forensic Listening™.

Now, I’m not saying you have to try to manipulate the other person or change your personality and present a false version of yourself.

But implementing just one of the following Forensic Listening™ techniques can help you avoid stepping on a conversational landmine and making sure your conversation doesn’t start off on a misunderstanding:

#1) Minimal Encouragers — The first technique is a minimal encourager, e.g. (“Yes!” “That’s right” or “Correct”). This small little gift of praise helps people understand that you are listening, engaged and you think what they are saying deserves a positive comment. While it sounds so trite, most people don’t say many positive things in a conversation and little affirmations can aid in getting people to open up more. 

#2) Open Ended Questions — Using open-ended questions helps get a sense of what they mean when they say something about themselves, work, or their perspective. Try questions like:

–          When you were a child – who were some of your heroes and why?

–          How does that make you feel now?

–          Why is that important to you? 

#3) Three Magic Words — You can also practice repeating the Three Magic Word Technique on what someone says. This is when you take the last three words they say or just the three most important words they’ve said and parrot back what they are saying, so they know you are dialed-into what they are saying with intensity and focus.

If you do these things effectively, and patiently wait for their response, most people will reveal more about themselves and you’ll get a deeper understanding of their intrinsic motivations. 

And once you understand these motivations, you’ll be able to tailor your statements and questions into ones that tap into these…multiplying the impact of your words in turn. They’ll be more receptive to your ideas…more attentive to your concerns…and more agreeable to your terms – among many other things.

And when these same techniques are something that a hostage negotiator relies on, time and time again, to lead a life-threatening situation into a safe outcome…you can bet that it’s got some serious use for helping more conversations, interactions, and situations go our way.

We’re not saying you’ll conduct some crazy hidden mind control on the other person…but you’ll tap into the levers that motivate us as human beings. And that’s a very powerful thing indeed.

Want to work with us? This maybe your chance. 

90-Day Crisis Coaching: Adele Cehrs heralded as a “crisis management guru” by the Wall Street Journal and former FBI hostage negotiator Chip Massey will share best practices and help you with crisis management issues with a weekly call and unrestricted email. This is not a regular offering of ours, it’s intended to help you not just weather the storm but to be part of your support system through COVID-19. Obviously, we have limited slots, the response has been awesome, write us at to sign up: $2,500 or call 703-969-9585.

Limited time offer: expires April 5, 2020