The blog I posted at Big Think today is about human chemistry. We’ve all heard about it and mostly associate it with romantic relationships. But chemistry — that sense of attraction, intrigue or interest felt in the presence of another person — is critical to many types of relationships. Audrey Hepburn purportedly said that it’s necessary to be “a little bit in love with your leading man and vice versa.” She added, “If you’re going to portray love, you have to feel it.”
At work, when negotiating or persuading, it’s easy to underestimate the importance of establishing a sense of chemistry or rapport. But if you’re going to influence people, you need to take an interest in them. Taking an interest in another person is one of the most effective forms of influence. The primary reason is that such interest in another person and attention to what they have to say is rare. When something is rare, it is often valuable.
There’s a difference between romantic chemistry and the kind that makes collaboration possible. The similarity is that in both cases the people involved feel that what each other has to say is important, intriguing or even fascinating.
How do you establish such chemistry at work? There is an element of mystery to it. Otherwise, we’d all be interested in and attracted to the same people. One thing we can manage that does contribute to chemistry is the level of attention and involvement we show when speaking with others. Checking our phones constantly cannot be good for chemistry. I sometimes wonder how people unable to stay away from their phones are able to foster effective relationships at work or home.
Why not conduct a chemistry experiment? Tomorrow, take just a little more interest in what someone has to say. Turn off your phone. Find a little more that you have in common. Share a moment of humor or a few stories. Take an interest in that person’s interests for even a few more minutes. Don’t overdo it. Then see if the gift is reciprocated. It may seem a bit manipulative at first, but honest interest in others is easy to generate if you truly listen, and especially when you begin to see the positive effects.
I started The Secret Handshake by mentioning in the introduction that people who are truly effective leaders and influential in whatever they do are usually the ones who make other people feel good about being around them. That’s a form of chemistry and it’s within your grasp — especially since so many people neglect to consider its importance.