Dale Carnegie was brilliant. In 1935, he published the international best-seller, “How to Win Friends & Influence People.” The book is filled with golden nuggets about how to connect with others. He emphasizes that people must be “sincere”, “genuine”, engage in “honest appreciation”, “show respect” and “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” He is essentially teaching empathy to people, but appeals to their egos with a punchy title that sells power. Would it have been as successful if it were titled, “How to Listen & Care About People”?
Perhaps Carnegie’s title was so successful because it addresses a human fundamental need—to be understood. If a person can “win” a friend, then that friend might understand them. The chances increase exponentially if the friend can be influenced to understand. But, sly Carnegie demonstrates that it is first in understanding the other person that you get the opportunity to be understood. Simply put, people listen better when they feel heard. Moreover, people connect better when they feel felt.
Feeling felt is a deeper form of communication. UCLA Medical Doctor Daniel Siegel refers to it as collaborative communication in his book, “The Developing Mind.” It occurs when people experience momentary states of alignment. This critical form of preverbal communication is formed in infancy when the infant and caregiver are attuned to each other’s feelings and needs. Siegel points out that adult’s verbal communication can “feel quite empty if it is devoid of the more primary aspects of each person’s internal states.”
Including primary aspects of your internal state means you must listen AND feel the other person. But how? Start by suspending yourself for a moment. Empty the mind and listen to the other person, but also try to intuitively feel what they are feeling. Part of your brain will be working to understand their perspective based on your mutual experience with each other. You might also take their age, gender, culture, current stress level, emotional state, and environment into consideration. To connect internally, allow your heart and gut to simultaneously sense what the other person is experiencing. Connecting at this deeper level allows you to empathize.
Remember these are only momentary states of alignment. The other person should take part in doing the same for you. You will also need to take a proper amount of space to allow for self-care and regeneration. But, finding those states of alignment should allow for deeper connection and the greatest feeling ever—being truly understood and felt. It can be excellent for calming someone down, connecting with a loved one, responding to your child, improving morale at work, and increasing your sales. Can ya feel me now?