As an FBI counterintelligence agent, my job was to get others to cooperate. Specifically, foreign spies in the United States to steal propriety economic, defense, or political information.
I attempted to persuade the foreign spy to jump ship and work with the FBI instead of their own government. It was a tough sell. If caught and their perfidy discovered, they risked imprisonment, loss of pension, and abandonment by friends and former colleagues.
For 20 years I made my living by learning how to get others to cooperate with me. If it wasn’t a foreign spy, it was supervisors, colleagues, and members of the business community from whom I needed cooperation if I wanted to keep moving ahead in my career.
While the chance of you crossing paths with a foreign spy are minimal, you will encounter investors, clients, prospects, and family members from whom you will need to elicit cooperation if you want to move forward in business and life.
Here are 4 easy ways you can get others to cooperate:
1. UNDERSTAND THAT COLLABORATION IS NOT OUR FIRST REACTION
Success in most jobs today requires the ability to develop strong collaborative ties with others. Kare Anderson shares a potent reminder in this quote: “Speak sooner to a strong sweet spot of shared interest to strengthen our friendship and generate more opportunities for us.”
The keyword is “sooner”, and here is why:
Our emotional limbic brain system is survival driven. Its sole purpose is to keep us safe by warning of us potential threats in our environment. Its first reaction to the unknown or the uninvited that shows up in our life is—to run away!
Obviously, not everything that is new or different is a threat to our safety; however, the limbic brain system does not know that. Furthermore, it doesn’t differentiate between events and people.
In the absence of positive information about an individual you meet, the limbic brain system warns you to distrust that person. This happens subconsciously before you have time to think about it.
This is why you must move quickly when wanting to get others to cooperate with you so you can alleviate the innate instinct to react negatively. This also explains why icebreakers are so important at workshops when people are meeting each other for the first time.
2. REFLECT WHAT YOU’RE THINKING
The way the brain connects and relates to others is through a series of mirror neurons that light up when we see others perform an action that has specific intent behind it. For example, when we see someone smile in delight, our mirror neurons light up, too, and we smile back. Our brain likes to share the emotion of the person in front of us.
This is why facial expressions are so important when we want to get others to cooperate with us. When we see someone experience an emotion, it activates the same circuits in our brain.
If you want a positive response, show it to the other person. Their mirror neurons will register your emotion and their automatic limbic brain response will not be to move away from you.
Remember, the flight emotional response is always the easiest to arouse, so be careful in what you say and how you say it if you want the other person to get others to cooperate with you.
3. SHARE PERSONAL STORIES
Positive social connections help you perform better on the job.
Sharing personal stories activates the mirror neurons and deepens connections between people. Not only will these increase the likelihood of meaningful collaboration, but people with good social connections do better at planning, thinking, and regulating emotions.
When we tell stories that have really helped us shape our thinking and way of life, we can have the same effect on others too. According to Uri Hasson, the brains of the person telling a story and those listening to it can synchronize. Not only are the same language processing parts of the brain activated, but the same emotional parts as well. We can plant ideas, thoughts, and emotions in the brain of the listener.
4. USE THESE TWO WORDS TO DISARM ANY DISAGREEMENT—AT LEAST TEMPORARILY!
Our natural instinct is to become defensive if our point of view is challenged because our limbic brain system is trying to protect us. To others to cooperate with us, it may be necessary to disarm a potential argument or disagreement by simply saying “You’re right.”
This immediately neutralizes the situation by showing respect for the other person’s point of view—even if it does not coincide with your own. Once the other individual is disarmed, you can follow up with something like, “I see how you feel (or think), but here is another way to look at the situation…”
Try role-playing with a friend and ask for their input. Disarm a heated argument with those two words, “You’re right.” Ask your friend if you are coming across the way you want.
I have found that mental toughness often has less to do with being tough than with being emotionally savvy about what is going on in the brain of those around me. I have used these 4 techniques to get people to cooperate with me, but there are many others.
Are you mentally tough? Take this FREE Assessment.
© 2014 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.
You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, AND LinkedIn
Are you mentally tough? Here is my FREE 45-Question Mental Toughness Assessment
Get my new book, “Secrets of a Strong Mind (second edition): How To Build Inner Strength To Overcome Life’s Obstacles”
Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths”
Excellent post. I am a BIG fan of stories. This Saturday I was working with a cohort of MBA students who had been in the same program for over a year. Before launching into their semester team project, I had them move into their teams and do a strategic storytelling workshop. They each had an opportunity to share a strategic story that exemplified a deeply held belief about leadership. They were amazed at how an investment of just over an hour brought them so much closer to the people they had thought the “knew.” Stories create connection every time.
Stories really do have the power to connect us, Karin!
I love the way you integrated your students by having them finish a storytelling workshop…brilliant!
Loved the post LaRae and your stories always leave me with wanting to know more about your FBI days!
I was drawn to your words: “In the absence of positive information about an individual you meet, the limbic brain system warns you to distrust that person.” It takes a bit for me to trust people who I first meet or work with and maybe this explains why I need evidence for them to earn my trust. But without trust, there will never be any cooperation or connection with that person.
Thanks for always teaching me something new to use in my life!
Terri, I think your instincts are right on when it takes a while for you to develop trust. We all need evidence of trustworthiness and even subconsciously our brain is protecting us from trusting everyone we meet.
As you say, trust is essential in relationships so it’s important to find ways to build it. What I didn’t mention in the article is that even though we may trust someone, when they give us clues that they aren’t being authentic, our limbic brain starts niggling us again….
LaRae- this is an excellent post, but I had to laugh at #4. Too often I’ve heard the words “You’re right” used in a less than sincere way! So for those who choose to use those two powerful words in the future, make sure you mean what you are saying!
And thanks for writing about trust.
Thank you, Barbara!
My husband made the same comment you did about #4…he says I say it all the time when we’re arguing 🙁
You both hit the nail on the head when you added these words: “It must be sincere.” If we acknowledge the other person has validity in their opinion, it goes a long way toward diffusing a confrontation. But the statement must be genuine.
Excellent insights, LaRae! Powerful and practical. I know many people who say they are terrible collaborators and I think you really make it clear that’s probably the default for many of us. Collaboration, especially positive collaboration, takes conscious effort and relationship building. Relationships are key to our personal leadership and effective collaboration.
Great post! Thanks!
Yes, true collaboration takes work, but is well worth the effort!