Calibration – it isn’t just for reading Others!

Calibration in Human Behavior is one of those not-so-secret, though often-overlooked skills. Simply, calibration is noticing the differences in people, between moments–observable shifts in their objectively noticeable, outward behaviors. That includes changes in skin tone or coloration, posture, movement, though it can also be more subtle. I’ve shared a story before about noticing pupil dilation in a customer’s eyes and, in combination with other observable behaviors, interpreted interest and curiosity about our topic of conversation.

When we calibrate the other person’s state, then we say or do something, we want to notice any change. This doesn’t in itself indicate that we were the one to create that change. It could be coincidence or another factor. Think of the old statistic (that is true, though seemingly strange): The murder rate tends to be positively correlated to ice cream sales. That appears to be coincidence, though due to a common cause–outside temperature. Ice cream sales increase during hotter weather and…yes, so do tempers. It’s not even a hard-and-fast coincidence: There have been plenty of exceptions to this “rule of thumb.”

Don’t assume! Asking more questions, reading the other person’s shifts more closely, verifying that your observation is valid, will save you a lot of time and frustration.

But often we speak about calibration of others’ observable behavior, when it’s just as useful in ourselves.

We take a baseline of where we “are” in a moment…are we calm? Stressed? Curious? Hungry? Then as we notice something new, hear something, someone gives us a look…we become aware of a change in ourselves. Without such conscious examination, most of us assume that what we feel that moment is “real” and based on “real” input coming from outside ourselves. And the first thing to notice is that something has happened. Something is different within us: Our state has changed. Only after recognizing it do we want to begin investigating what caused it. As we learn this process, it might seem like a little extra work. Technically, it is, as this is something most of us never bother to do. Worse, it’s generally beneath conscious awareness for most of us. We therefore become powerless and unable to use this to run our own minds, our own lives, our own careers, our own relationships.

I’m not saying that the actions of others haven’t prompted the shift in us. But what we’re going to learn is to move the “locus of control” from the external world to your internal one.

First, let’s review how calibration works with others. You walk into a room and see someone who matters to you. They appear calm, thoughtful, as though daydreaming. You observe them for a few moments, unnoticed and get a sense that, though you can’t see inside their mind, they appear to be content and at peace.

You clear your throat to get their attention just as a buzzer goes off on their phone. Their eyes dart toward you and their expression is one of shock, even seemingly, anger. Yes, in the interest of time we’re not sticking to strict Observation, but jumping right into Interpretation. This is rarely a good idea, by the way: It’s easy to get our interpretations wrong and waste a bunch of time. First, you want to notice that something changed within the other person. Then you are free to open your mind and investigate the cause.

Remember how vital Curiosity is to your overall Attitude–genuinely wanting to understand the other person. So as you observe a shift in them, you naturally want to understand what caused it. Your sharp Sensory Acuity, another crucial part of the Attitude, enables you to perceive everything the other person offers, even the “invisible channels” of communication. Now you’re beginning to understand the causes, the reasons for the shifts.

And as you determine the cause (this is covered more fully in my new book), you can utilize it to better achieve the holy grail–the win-win.

But what about calibrating our own changes? Once we “check in” with ourselves, or just sit still, let our minds quiet down, and notice the thoughts and feelings, the emotions vying for our attention, we can take a snapshot, capture a moment in time, and notice: What’s going on with me right now? If you just capture this, jot it down on a tablet or piece of paper–whatever your preference–you can get a great sense of what you’re feeling. But once you’ve practiced this a bit, you won’t even need to write it down. You can ask your unconscious mind to take that “snapshot” and recall it when you need.

We’re going to build upon that skill, next, so begin noticing what you’re feeling, what thoughts are predominant in your mind. Why do this? So we can understand what’s influencing us, for one. But there’s another capacity waiting to be tapped. And this is the door you must open to reach it.

Understanding the things others may not want you to know…

Because not only is that an excellent way to ensure a win-win outcome–

It’s an excellent way to know what’s really going on with them. The things they’d rather you didn’t know.

Let that one sink in for a bit.

Copyright © 2022 Chris Gingolph

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