I was listening to a podcast featuring a study on human behavior. The theory being tested was how early we develop empathy and how people learn with whom to connect and trust. The experiment involved lining up two rows of adults; the first row held a baby in a carrier facing forward; music played. The adults carrying the babies swayed their bodies to the rhythm of the music. The second row of adults faced the babies; one half swayed to the rhythm of the music and the other half countered.
After the session, the babies and adults played together. During that time, the study showed that if an adult dropped a toy, a baby would more often retrieve the toy for or help the adult who had swayed in the same rhythm than the adult who countered.
How fascinating! Our natural tendency, from a very early age and without verbal communication, is to gravitate to those that we believe are more in sync with us. If you study body language theorists, they typically suggest you mirror the behavior of the person whom you are trying to influence or gain trust. They lean into the desk, you lean into the desk. It’s advice to just follow another person’s rhythm.
But this specific study with the babies struck me – it’s not just about the relevance of being in sync with someone but it’s also about how early and innate this behavior is developed. The more you see someone moving with your beat of life, the more they are willing to help you, support you, trust you.
How interesting to think about this study and its adaption to our work relationships. I would imagine that we all have encountered people in our lives that we just didn’t connect with but couldn’t pinpoint as to why. It makes it especially problematic if this person is your co-worker, boss or a client! Reflecting on this study may be one way to observe their rhythm and adapt yours in order to foster a stronger relationship and learn new rhythms.
Not to say we shouldn’t celebrate and acknowledge our differences. Never try to pretend to be someone you are not. If you walk to the beat of your own drum, go for it! But know that people may take longer to warm up to your different beat. Be aware of your rhythm, ensure you aren’t subconsciously throwing out a rhythm that puts up barriers where and when you didn’t intend.
Are you aware of your rhythm? Are you ensuring you are staying in your client’s rhythm? What happens to your relationship when you don’t?
Join the conversation! Email me at email@example.com.
This article was originally published on Fleet Management Weekly.