Businesses are not entities. All businesses are made up of people. Successful businesses are built on honesty and integrity in the relationships within the team. In addition, a network of healthy relationships outside of the company enables everyone to achieve more than any one person could alone.
How does one move from awareness of another person into a trusting association that brings about remarkable results?
In this final reflection on my encounters with Ben Larson,
I asked him about that third super power – “Reading People.”
ANDREW: Is there a secret to ‘reading people’ that provides insight for you in every situation?
BEN: When I talk about ‘reading people,’ I want to know if the words I hear are aligning with this person’s character and intentions. Many books have been written about body language and non-verbal signals that you can use to ‘read people.’ Those signals are non-standard and culturally based, so I don’t rely on those very much.
My measure of people lies in the words spoken as compared to the actions taken. Instead of making judgments about another person, I simply start another conversation and investigate what I have noticed. Engaging in honest conversation reveals the reasons behind the actions I have noticed.
ANDREW: What is the greatest risk in noticing those unspoken signals in a conversation?
BEN: Most likely, certain movements and postures have been described as ‘always’ or ‘never’ and the risk is in assigning feelings and motives to someone I have just met.
On the other side of the same coin, I have learned to trust my gut. The mistakes I have made over the years are always associated with acting against my intuition. Alarm bells in my head are there for a definite reason. Whenever I dismiss those alerts, I walk into issues that I could have avoided from the outset.
ANDREW: Are you quick to trust others? Or, do you hang back and see what people do?
BEN: In most cases, I encounter people directly at an event or in person. Each person stands apart from the crowd, and I simply start a conversation. There is not a lot of trust involved in a simple talk when we are at an event. Until the topic changes to something tangible, I do a lot of listening and gather information.
If someone is sent to me from a trusted associate, that individual has a certain measure of trust until I notice something that raises a red flag of concern. So to answer your question, I do trust most people early.
ANDREW: As we discussed my smart phone app, I had the sense that you were different from everyone else who had ever shown interest. I have never figured out why that is. Can you define what made our conversations so much easier?
BEN: People are more important than money, and conveying that to others is essential when building trust in business. You mentioned your app, but I was more interested in helping you find what you were actually looking for at the time.
Not everyone is driven by cold hard cash. If I assume that money is the only negotiation instrument, I am unable to ‘read’ the other person. The faster method is to ask some direct questions. I will ask the same question a couple of different ways to see if I get the same answer.
Probing questions can be threatening, but safe questions asked multiple ways offer more information than staying on the surface of each topic. I really do want to know if people are seeking that exit that you were wanting in your smart app venture.
ANDREW: What makes you able to see past the persona that most people project?
BEN: I never set out to ‘figure out’ another person. My intention is to turn the conversation away from personalities and onto the future. Most people are surprised that I am not probing for the entries on their resume. I don’t even know if the other person has ever accomplished anything.
Some people want another chance to talk after thinking about genuine answers to my questions. Everyone is different, and I respect those who want to consider a real answer to my surprising questions. Once some thought time is invested in looking ahead, I find that people relax and become more transparent. Then, the conversation can go almost anywhere.
ANDREW: So, that’s why you are able to build trust. Reading people is more about focus than magic. From what I gather, instead of guessing at the non-verbal cues, you ask creative questions and then, listen for the answers.
BEN: Exactly. People want to believe they know what to expect when we start to talk. I would rather cut through the anticipated exchange and discover the real person behind the mask that most people wear.
Whether we like it or not, we have traditional ways of meeting the unknown. As long as people retain control over the conversation, I won’t find genuine answers to the questions that could hold the key for each person. I would rather have an open conversation even if I don’t have something to offer directly to this person. Maybe I know someone who does.
Once we had explored Ben’s top three talents, I was assured that my smartphone app was going to find its true potential. Unlike many others who just wanted to take away my startup into the unknown, I had found someone who could see the app’s potential from my perspective.
As we move forward, I know that I will be able to connect other people to Ben because of his genuine interest in taking as many people as possible with him on his journey to success.
Being a part of the beginning of Ben’s new journey has been more rewarding than I could have anticipated.