Have you ever known something about what a person was going to say, before they even open their mouth?
It’s as though we have this uncanny, unexplainable capacity to detect the way the conversation is going to go, before it even begins. Perhaps, for some of us, that skill is stronger than for others. And perhaps, it doesn’t happen all the time. Nonetheless, most people can remember having this kind of feeling at some point in their lives.
Your friend walks up to you in the middle of the day with a spring in his step, and instantly you know there is something to celebrate. You pick up the phone to your daughter’s unexpected call, already prepared to brace yourself for the bad news. A person approaches you at a networking event and, without yet speaking, you know this is going to be an awkward conversation.
Check in with yourself for a moment… Can you think of your own example of knowing before knowing?
And if you do… how did you know?
Research from the University of Michigan shows that human connection is significantly affected by the level and type of energy that we bring to the conversation.
Knowingly or unknowingly, we are energy detection machines – and the energy information we receive informs our experience of the interaction.
Scholar Jane Dutton has made it her life’s mission to explore how energy-enhancing connections, called High Quality Connections, impact our lives and our work.
Her results demonstrate that the process of human interaction can be divided into micro-units… and that the energy of each micro-unit among team members in an organization contributes to the overall well-being of the company. It also has an impact on important bottom-line business results.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to put this theory to the test. My business, Leading in Motion, was sponsoring its first booth at a conference in Arizona for small businesses, called Inside Edge.
I was interested in getting the most out of the experience by having the most helpful, interesting and joyful conversations possible with those who visited my booth.
Yet quickly I noticed that some conversations just “clicked” more than others.
What made the difference?
In many cases, it was the level and quality of energy that I – or my conversation partner – brought to the table. (Yes, literally the table… with a bright orange table cloth!)
What unfolded over the weekend was a dance of highs and lows, sometimes consciously crafted, and sometimes by default. I noticed that when I was “feeling good” the conversations were upbeat, productive and interesting. One person even said as she left “I feel better just talking to you!” On the other hand, I noticed that when I, or my conversation partner, showed up anxious, helpless or sullen, it was hard for the other one not to follow suit. We expressed automatic empathy through a mirroring of energy.
Ultimately, neither situation was better or worse. Both provided valuable information that helped us make sense of one another in the moment.
But it was interesting to note the role I could play in influencing our collective “vibe”
… and it was fascinating to acknowledge the myriad of things I already knew before my conversation partner opened his or her mouth.
Whether the idea of “reading energy” in a conversation sounds obvious, or you still think I’m crazy for proposing it, this week I invite you to do a little research of your own.
This week, in your movement practice, and in life, I invite you to increase the level of attention you place on your thoughts, feelings and sensations in in the first few moments of an activity or interaction.
What do you notice?
And, if you do notice something, how might that information be useful to you, and to others?
In your movement practice,
pay special attention to the mood you bring to the table (or the treadmill, pool, gym, stable, studio or dojo…). What information is the level and quality of your own energy offering you right now? What happens if you increase it, providing a subtle mirror of your inner landscape on the observable outside? And, what happens if you take an intention to adjust?
Can you consciously choose to elevate your energy, in service of the positive ripple effects it may create among those around you?
try turning up the volume on your senses. Take note of your conversation partner’s communication between (and before) the lines. Don’t worry about coming up with a specific strategy, like tone of voice or body language. Thinking too hard about the “how” will mostly likely fog your intuition. Just relax, and sense.
What do you know?
And how can you tweak, shift, or adjust your own energy to best show up for it?
Feelin’ the vibe,