In this third article on verbal taijutsu I will focus on the energy of the fire element. First let’s start with energy itself. The fire element is about connection, but also energy. An intense level of positive energy is always contagious. Enthusiasm is inspiring. This is what a lot of motivational speakers survive on. By the way, the roots of the word enthusiasm can be traced back to the latin (deus – day-ous) which we can interpret as “of God”. In other words, enthusiastic is the way we are meant to be naturally.
The fire element, as I mentioned, is also about connection. We may also interpret this as attraction. Therefore, applying the fire element effectively in our communication skills is a matter of creating rapport and attracting or connecting with people. We might be endeavoring to create an ally or a friend, or intending to win someone over to our point of view. In any case, the underlying key is to be sure the energy is positive. Not always easy, yet it is important for us to be aware that negative communication can be seductive and contagious as well. We must guard against being dragged down into this type of verbal quicksand. It always comes at high price. We all issue a bit of negative verbal junk from time to time, it’s called venting and is healthy if it’s not a habit. For the most part however, negative or overpowering energy is typically repulsive and will result in the opposite of connection.
We experience this in our art when we overdo something using too much muscle, or panic driven intensity. This always results in driving our opponent away and losing the connection that could allow us to win. Understand, I am not saying that strong-arming or overpowering an adversary doesn’t work, it is just not our approach. It is much more effective and less exhausting to allow an attacker to wreck themselves with strategic positioning. The same is true when you can transform and adversary into an ally if possible.
When you are intending to establish a connection and create rapport there are a couple of very effective approaches to practice. A well known practice that many folks in the sales industry use is to subtly mirror body language. This works to suggest to the person you are communicating with that you are alike in some way, and this is attractive to most people. It can make them feel somehow a bit more connected to you, and thus more likely to listen to what you are saying, and in the case of sales, more likely to trust you.
Another useful skill is to use what I call magic words. Here is an example. When you find something you can agree with that the other person has said, repeat it by beginning with the phrase “Like you said…,” or “It’s just like you said….” This establishes common ground and thus adds energy to the desired connection. It is critical that you be genuine about this, most people can recognize BS and will resent perceived attempts at manipulation.
These are a few basic considerations for expanding our awareness of the elemental model and how it relates to communication skills. A strong caveat here, you must be truthful with yourself and clear about your intentions, being careful to keep them positive. Manipulation purely for one’s own benefit may appear to work great for a while, but it’s a very slippery slope. Remember, our definition of winning is that we get what we want and need, and the world is somehow a better place because of it. Skillful communication, or lack thereof, can make or break almost any intended outcome.
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