Listening: Your secret power.

I’m Canadian, and a communication matcher. I will do whatever it takes to agree with you. It’s part of my nature. You say “It’s a gorgeous fall day today!” I will say either “Yes, it sure is!” or I might get specific and say, “Yes it sure is, especially this afternoon” or if I think globally, I might say “Yes, this whole autumn has been spectacular.” For me, and other matchers, finding a way to agree with you, is my way of making you feel heard and connecting to you.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the mis-matchers. They are the ones who disagree with you, even when they actually agree with you. If you say “Canada has some amazing national parks”. They might answer: ” No, not really, we don’t do enough to protect our environment” or they may say “No, There are more amazing parks in the USA” or the toughest mismatch “ Oh, Andria, only you would think Canada has amazing national parks”.

Matchers and mis-matchers are on the opposite end of a spectrum. Some of the characteristics can be cultural, others are behavioral, but universally it’s a habit system. It’s my habit to agree just as it’s someone else’s to disagree. It’s not good or bad, but it is something you can listen for.

There are three levels of listening.

Level One: Conversational Listening.

You do this with your best friend, listen, wait for them to stop talking, offer your opinion, and then they wait for you to stop talking, so they can offer you advice.

Level Two: Reflective Listening.

Often called active listening, this is reflecting back to the speaker what they said. This lets them know that they have been heard and allows for even greater connection.

Level Three: Deep Listening.

Deep Listening is about noticing more than the words the speaker is using. It’s about noticing their body language, what they are not saying, and the habits they use when communicating.

Mismatching vs Matching is one habit system that individuals use. When you are deeply listening, you will notice the speaker’s conversational response and incorporate that into your listening and response.

HABIT SYSTEM ONE: Matching/Mismatching

Matchers will do one of three things. They will agree with you at the same level: “Our sales numbers for this quarter have really soared.” “Yes, I agree it’s been a great quarter”, or they will chunk down by paying attention to smaller details. “Yes, I agree, especially June, that was a great month.” or they will chunk up by pointing out the bigger picture or a more inclusive view. “Yes, I agree, I think we are on track for a great year!”

Mis-matchers also have three patterns. They will disagree at a polarity level and state the opposite. “‘Our sales numbers for this quarter have really soared” “Even if we doubled our numbers, I wouldn’t call that soaring.”Or they might offer counterexamples that chunk down, the good ol’ Yes, but. “Sure, but did you notice how low May’s numbers are?” The third habitual response is to mismatch at the meta level, outside of the topic that you are referencing and mismatch you. “I’m surprised you think a 3% growth in sales is soaring.”

As I mentioned above, this habit system of matching or mismatching isn’t good or bad — it’s simply a pattern to be observed. We need people who are mismatchers to voice their concerns. Would you rather a structural engineer be someone who says “yes, that bridge looks great” or to be someone who says “Yes, but did you confirm the specs on….”.

Noticing whether someone matches or mismatches lets you know a couple things about them. If someone matches it you, it means they tend to notice similarities first, they tend to look for ways to collaborate, and they also tend to question less. A mis-matcher is going to notice the differences right away, they are looking for the exception or the problem.

To build a connection with a matcher, find ways to agree with them, and focus on possibilities. To connect with a mismatcher, consider commenting in the negative to allow them to comment in the positive. “It sounds like it’s pretty unlikely we will meet our deadline.” allows a mismatcher to answer “Oh no, we’ve got this.”

Next week: Habit System Two: Moving away or Moving Toward.

This article is based on the work of researchers — Dilts and DeLoizer,Encyclopedia of Systemic Neuro-Linguistic Programming and NLP New Coding, 2000.