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How to Know a Person: The Art of Deep Connection

I recently read David Brooks's newest book, How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen. Having enjoyed his previous works, especially The Road to Character, I was eager to dive into this one. What struck me most about this book is its unique premise: conversational and social skills aren't just innate traits—they can be learned and improved upon.


What I found especially compelling is how these skills apply to all kinds of relationships and interactions. Whether catching up with a close friend, chatting with a coworker, or exchanging pleasantries while waiting in line, being fully present and attuned can transform the encounter. These simple practices can make others feel heard and valued.


The book is full of practical advice for improving our interactions. Here are some key techniques that can help enhance your conversations:


Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions invite people to share their experiences and perspectives more deeply. They encourage dialogue rather than simple yes or no answers. Some effective open-ended questions include:


  • "How did you...": This question invites someone to share their process or experience.

  • "What's it like...": This helps the person describe their feelings or perspective on a situation.

  • "Tell me about...": This is a great way to get someone to open up about a specific event or experience.

  • "In what ways...": This encourages detailed responses and deeper reflection.


Using these questions can lead to richer, more meaningful conversations that foster understanding and connection.


Looping

Looping is a technique where you paraphrase what someone has just said to ensure you've understood them correctly. This not only shows that you are actively listening but also gives the speaker a chance to clarify if needed. For example:


  • Speaker: "I've been feeling really overwhelmed at work lately."

  • You: "It sounds like work has been particularly stressful for you recently."


This technique helps to validate the speaker's feelings and shows that you are engaged in the conversation.



The SLANT Method

The SLANT method is a powerful way to convey attention and interest during a conversation. It stands for:


  • Sit up: Maintain good posture to show you are attentive.

  • Lean forward: This body language indicates interest and engagement.

  • Ask questions: Show curiosity and a desire to understand more.

  • Nod: Non-verbal cues like nodding encourage the speaker to continue.

  • Track the speaker: Keep eye contact and follow the speaker's movements to show you are fully present.


These techniques can transform how you interact with others, making them feel heard and valued.


At The Guided Change, we emphasize the importance of these skills in building meaningful connections. Whether you're catching up with a close friend, chatting with a coworker, or simply exchanging pleasantries, being fully present and attuned can make a significant difference. Our coaching programs integrate these practices to help you develop deeper, more fulfilling relationships.


Connecting in the Digital Age

As a society, we are struggling with connection despite being more connected than ever through technology. In Chapter 8, "The Epidemic of Blindness," Brooks discusses how technology has contributed to a sense of loneliness and disconnection. While we can easily stay in touch, we often fail to truly see and understand each other.


This issue becomes even more critical when considering the social and political divisions highlighted in the book. The rise in depression, suicide, and distrust is alarming, and Brooks makes a compelling case that this social unraveling is fueling our political divides. His discussion about how politics can substitute genuine connection is particularly thought-provoking.


Practical Takeaways

How to Know a Person challenges us to be intentional in our interactions—whether that means asking more thoughtful questions, fully listening to the answers, or expressing genuine appreciation. It's about approaching conversations with generosity and curiosity, looking for ways to connect and understand. Even small actions, like asking the right question at the right time or giving a compliment, can make a big difference in building relationships.

The insights from this book are sure to stay with me for a long time, and I encourage you to explore these techniques in your own interactions. By incorporating open-ended questions, looping, and the SLANT method, you can create deeper connections and foster a more understanding and compassionate world.


Join the Conversation

At The Guided Change, we are dedicated to helping you develop these skills and more. Join our coaching programs to learn how to enhance your relationships and lead a more fulfilling life. Share your experiences with us on social media using the hashtags



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