Perfecting Connecting; Learning to Speak the Language of Others

by Sarah Michel

Human beings—with their distinctive personality preferences, temperaments, and natural talents—are unique! Because of their differences, my research over the past decade tells me people are looking for clues about how to connect well with others, often through networking.

This article focuses on how human temperament plays a role in consciously creating the connections you want in every world you touch. The more worlds you have your feet planted in, the richer your connections will be. It also discusses the importance of speaking to individual personality “preferences” of those you’re trying to connect with while honoring your own uniqueness.

Transactional vs. Connectional Networking
Networking has become the single most important life skill in determining business and personal success. Your ability to be connected within your organization and with outside contacts may very well determine your next sale, promotion, or job offer.

However, my clients tell me all the time how they wish people came equipped with “instruction manuals” to provide instant data on their core values, needs, skills and talents. Knowing what language and behavior clues to listen for when you’re talking with a new contact would accelerate your ability to make a positive and long-lasting connection.

Networking occurs at all levels of society every day—in schools, offices, neighborhoods, meetings, and at social gatherings. Sadly, most people practice transactional networking, made up of interactions solely intended to complete a transaction. Transactional networkers engage people only when they need to make a sale, find a job, or acquire a lead. As soon as they get what they’re looking for, they don’t talk to these contacts again until they want to make another transaction. Transactional networkers are often perceived as “network users” or, as I like to call it, “network drive-byers.”

By contrast, connectional networking occurs when you cultivate interpersonal relationships so they will grow and prosper. When you nurture these relationships while expecting nothing in return, you’re practicing connectional networking. Connectional networkers believe you can have anything you want in life if you help others in your network get what they want and need first.

Here’s how an international business broker decided to change the way he approaches his network contacts after attending my seminar on Perfecting Connecting. He said,

“While I have always included personal details about my contacts and tried to connect with them on a personal level, I never fully thought about how I could be a valuable resource to them. I failed to link the simple fact that I am more valuable to my network contacts when I can help them achieve their goals. So when I returned to my office Monday, I approached my stack of callbacks with a new game plan and renewed vigor. I now hold in my hands the key to my own success . . . it’s their success!”

Cultivating New Contacts
Connectional networking is like planting a field. When you’re cultivating new contacts, you put seeds in carefully selected soil, water and fertilize them, pull out the weeds, and generally nurture the plants over time. You don’t throw seeds in the ground one morning and expect to see a plant blossom that afternoon. Real connectors know that good things come to those who can hang in there through several harvests. When whatever you nurture begins to bloom—look out!

Some networkers simply give up too soon because they fail to see the strengths that their personality patterns and natural talents bring to the networking process—their temperament. To really connect with others, therefore, it’s critical to learn the role of temperament in driving human behavior, values, and communication agendas.

Why is it important to know your temperament preference? Because that understanding will increase your self awareness, which is the key to better self management. Knowing about the other temperaments will help you understand how people are both different and similar from each other. It provides clues for knowing how to adapt your behavior to cultivate good connections. When you can do that, you’re on your way to “Perfecting Connecting! ™”

Reading Temperament Clues
Over the centuries, great philosophers, educators, and researchers—from the ancient Greeks to the Native American Indians—have identified four distinct patterns or temperaments that all mankind fall into. Dr. David Keirsey, author of Please Understand Me (1979), developed the Keirseyian Temperament Theory by defining these four personality patterns: Artisan, Guardian, Rational, and Idealist. Dr. Linda V. Berens, a student of Dr. Keirsey’s, refined the four temperament patterns even more*. She broke down the essential elements of each temperament pattern into core needs, values, talents, and behaviors.

The belief that only extraverted people are successful networkers is simply not true. People from all four patterns—Artisan, Guardian, Rational, and Idealist—have the capacity to enjoy equal success at networking. “Perfecting connecting” is about forming valued relationships, not working a room so you pick up as a record number of business cards.

Adding Animal Metaphors
In TRI Methodology Facilitator’s Guide (1997), Dr. Linda Beren’s identified four animal metaphors (described below) that represent each of the temperament patterns. Also included are case studies from a variety of professionals. These case studies show how their individual temperament preferences have influenced their ability to connect with others.

Remember, these four case studies represent only one example of each temperament. The difference between someone with an extroverted personality versus someone with an introverted personality can make two people with the same temperament preference look very different.
As you read these descriptions, think about which one fits your own temperament preference best. Also, think about the people from your network who may sound to you like one of the other three temperament patterns. Once you have a specific person in mind, read on to learn how to best connect with him or her. Pay close attention to the “rules” you need to remember to heighten your awareness so you can appeal to that person’s core needs and values.

The Artisans
Their core needs are to have the freedom to act without hindrance and to see a marked result from their actions. Artisans value aesthetics highly, whether in nature or art. Their energies are focused on skillful performance, variety, and stimulation. Artisans tend to be gifted at employing available means to accomplish an end. Their creativity is revealed by the variety of solutions they come up with. They are talented at using tools, whether the tool is language, theories, paintbrushes, or computers. They’re natural negotiators and risk takers, which is why the Fox is their animal. Foxes and artisans are tactical, adaptive creatures; they know how to deal easily with changes in their environment.

Artisan case study: Here is how a manager of an outpatient healthcare organization uses tactical approaches when meeting new contacts.

“When I attend a networking function, I always expect to meet new people and learn as much as I possibly can from them. I’m able to walk away confident that I can apply whatever I have learned to improve my success in my job. I never used to like attending networking functions but I have started because I enjoy meeting people and finding out what they do. I like helping them make connections. If there’s an introduction I can make or a door I can open, I’ll jump on that if someone made a positive first impression. I have developed a powerful introduction that is catchy and differentiates me from other people who do what I do.

“When I meet new people, three questions immediately go through my head: Can they help me? Can I help them? Is there a possibility for a mutually beneficial relationship? If I had to rank what’s most important when meeting people, it would be 1) the contacts they have, 2) any offers to help me, 3) their positions, 4) their personalities, and 5) their expertise. Their ability and willingness to follow through is also key to my deciding on whether I keep in touch. Actions speak louder than words or promises.”

When connecting with Artisans, remember to:

  • Talk about your actions—what you’ve done, results you’ve achieved
  • Talk about how you’ve influenced others
  • Respond quickly to their non-verbal cues—the first 17 seconds is critical in making a positive first impression because they get bored easily
  • Appeal to their need for freedom/options/variety
  • Show them action—who, when, how to get things done…now!

The Guardians 
Their core needs are for group membership and responsibility. Guardians need to know they are doing the responsible thing. They value stability, security, and a sense of community. They trust hierarchy and authority, and may be surprised when others go against these social structures. Guardians know how things have always been done so they anticipate where things can go wrong. They have a knack for attending to rules, procedures, and protocol. They make decisions based on what worked in the past. Guardians are called Beavers because they have incredible logistical talents for how they build their dams and approach their work. They mate for life and are fiercely protective of their families (or teams). They know how to conserve resources.

Guardian case study: Here is how an organizational consultant and head of his own consulting firm uses logic to maintain his relationships and cultivate new contacts.

“I’m not a natural networker and I don’t easily initiate conversation with people I don’t know. However, I’m very loyal to my network contacts and extremely dependable, so often they make the first contact for me. If the person appears sincere in wanting to develop a professional relationship, I will follow up immediately, most likely by email.”

“Recently, I attended a professional association meeting where I didn’t know anyone in the room. Two members introduced themselves to me and we engaged in lengthy conversations that led to several business possibilities. I immediately followed up with both of them and we’re now attempting to do business together. I’m extremely organized and structured in maintaining my contacts. Even with my busy travel schedule, I make a point to stay connected to my contacts. I consider these people my best advocates in helping me build my business.”

When connecting with Guardians, remember to:

  • Acknowledge what they’ve done/contributed
  • Be factual, use detailed descriptions, and quantify if you can
  • Talk about what you’ve learned from the past using comparisons
  • Be dependable and consistent; always follow through
  • Provide structure to your connection with them
  • Appeal to their need for membership and belonging

The Rationals
Their core needs are for mastery of concepts, knowledge, and competence. Rationals want to understand the operating principles of the universe. They seek to learn or develop theories for explaining everything. They value expertise, logical consistency, concepts, and ideas. They seek progress. Rationals abstractly analyze a situation and consider previously unthought-of possibilities. Research, analysis, searching for patterns, and developing hypotheses are their natural modi operandi when connecting with others. Rationals are called Owls because of their ability to have incredible focus, strategic vision, intuitive strength, and pragmatic approaches to solving problems.

Rational case study: Here’s how a senior sales executive of an international recruitment advertising firm strategically develops her network to support her sales success.

“I’m an effective networker by design. I take a genuine interest in people and then try and connect them with others. For example, last night my company hosted a party with clients and prospects, many of whom did not know each other. By standing at the door, greeting people, and asking them brief questions, I was able to connect them with people at the party who possessed similar interests or expertise. Because of doing this, everyone had a nice time and will remember my company and me favorably. My follow-up calls with prospects will be easier and better received as a result.”

“Prior to attending any function, I develop a plan: Who should I look for? What should I achieve? Am I there to establish a presence or meet a specific person with the goal of a follow-up meeting?”

“Network functions take the ‘cold’ out of cold calling and allow the opportunity to connect with people on a more personable level. I decide whether or not to maintain the contact on both personal and professional levels. If the person is likeable or fun, I might continue to build a relationship just for those reasons. Sometimes my business dictates that I keep in touch with someone due to current or future business needs. I certainly evaluate what the contact can provide: more connections, potential business, credibility, expertise, information, or knowledge. First is being able to give any of those things; second is personality.”

When connecting with Rationals, remember to:

  • Avoid emotion, stay calm
  • Avoid irrelevant, trivial, redundant conversation
  • Recognize their accomplishments and say how they’ve affected you
  • Watch your use of words; avoid exaggerations and mispronunciations
  • Present a logical reason if you want something from them (WIIFM)
  • Give a conceptual view when presenting information

The Idealists
Their core needs are to enjoy the meaning that comes from having a sense of purpose and working toward some greater good. Idealists need to have a sense of unique identity; they value unity, self-actualization, and authenticity. Idealists prefer cooperative interactions with a focus on ethics and morality. They’re gifted at unifying people and helping them realize their potential. They build bridges between people through empathy and clarification of deeper issues, which makes them highly effective. Idealists are called Dolphins because of their diplomatic talents in bridging two worlds. They travel in pods, are highly intelligent, have a unique ability to sense the vulnerable, and live to nurture empathic relationships.

Idealist case study: Here is how a marketing executive from the sports and entertainment industry handled her career transition into the technology field. Notice how she diplomatically created relationships and networks to help her land a position as chief information officer (CIO) with an internet company in New York City.

“When I decided I wanted to join the internet world, I went to three general internet conferences that were featuring three CEOs of the companies I was targeting. As I listened to each of them speak about their companies, I evaluated not only their content and delivery but the passion that they had for their employees and their products. That left me with two companies I wanted to work for but I did not introduce myself on the spot because I had zero leverage. I had no industry experience and I wanted them to want me.

“So I went back to my network and called several internet marketing headhunters whom I had long-standing relationships with. I let them introduce me to one of these CEOs looking for a new CIO and he hired me. In my first two months in the job, I called 7 or 8 non-competing internet company CEOs and senior executives then hosted a lunch to get their perspective on the industry and begin to build relationships. During these lunches, they felt important that I was seeking their counsel. On a person level, I got to know them better— where they lived, married or single, kids, sports they liked, mutual acquaintances—so we had multiple levels of connections. I then kept records in my database of who I thought were all stars, both professionally and personally.”

When connecting with Idealists, remember to:

  • Be passionate, sincere, and authentic
  • Talk and listen empathically to build rapport
  • Use metaphors, symbols, and stories to connect
  • Focus on the future—details about what might be, not what is
  • Talk about your significant relationships and ask about theirs
  • Discuss how your connections contribute to the development of individuals and/or organizations

What’s Your Preference?
Most likely you identified with each of the four temperament descriptions, even just a little. As people grow older and wiser, they learn to adapt their behavior, stretch their values and beliefs, and develop a variety of preferences. Quite simply, the older we get, the more perfect God makes us. This explains why you’d see a little of yourself in all four descriptions. However, one of these patterns should feel like “home base” more than the other three.

When you think about the people within your network, I encourage you to determine which of the four temperament patterns is their preference, and then approach each of them using the recommendations above. You’ll begin to see results, not only professionally but personally, too. You’re aiming for long-term connections—networking for life, not networking for the moment.

When you first meet people you want to connect with, ask questions that start with the words who, what, where, how, and why. In their responses, listen for clues that tip you off about their core needs, values, talents, and behaviors—that is, their temperament preference. The more you “temperament watch,” the more quickly identifying these preferences becomes second nature to you.

Understanding temperament will give you the “instruction manual” you need to improve your connections. Once you speak their language, you’re on your way to Perfecting Connecting!