Can Tiny Interactions have Big Consequences in your Business?

I just received a scathing email from an old friend of mine - which really threw me off, because I wasn’t upset with her and didn’t think she was upset with me. Her email was filled with presuppositions and assumptions - things she had created in her head and believed to be true about a situation between her and a group of our friends. Yet as I read her words I was saddened to see all of the meanings she had attached to our actions. And I had to ask myself - if she had a higher self worth, could she have EVER made these assumptions about a group of friends that always had and always will love her?

It reminded me of a stark example I once saw about the meanings we attach to things  - and how our interpretations can either empower us, or we can rip ourselves to pieces in the blink of an eye. It was during a rapport building exercise that we have done in the sales training event I frequently mention. We split the room into two groups - and give each group different instructions:

Group 1 has to tell their partner a compelling story for 5 minutes or so - about a great moment in their lives. They have NO CLUE as to what the assignment is for Group 2.
Group 2 has to simply match and mirror them for the first part of the story. By that I mean that they need to use the same facial expressions, stand and gesture in relatively the same way, breathe at the same pace, etc. It’s sort of like copying them - but in a subtle way so that it’s not obvious.

Yet here’s the catch: Group 2, upon seeing the “silent signal”, must stop matching and mirroring the other person. They must put their hands in their pockets or cross their arms, stand differently, and consciously work to use their body differently than their partner. That’s their only assignment - mirror their partner, then stop.
You may think it’s a silly exercise in which everyone catches onto the big secret. You may think this even more so when I tell you we do this exercise with the participants directly after we teach them about building rapport with matching and mirroring!

But after 2 and a half years and doing this exercise with hundreds of people, only three people in Group 1 have ever caught on!

Here’s the amazing thing that happened about a year ago - one that really taught me that I had better be darn mindful of the meanings I attach to other people’s words and actions - because I could truly take one event and allow it to make me or break me if I allowed it to:

In the middle of this matching and mirroring exercise, two women got very uncomfortable with the fact that things had suddenly shifted as they were telling their story. They both noticed a big difference in the response they were getting from the other person, but they didn’t understand why. They both made very similar, but drastically different conclusions about what was happening.

In one moment, one woman built up her self worth and the other one tore herself down.

“Woman A” noticed the change and said to herself “What’s wrong with this OTHER PERSON; why aren’t they listening to me?”

“Woman B” noticed the change and said to herself “What’s wrong with ME; why aren’t they listening to me?”

You may think something different happened to each woman - yet they didn’t! It was the exact same exercise, the exact same shifting point, and the exact same changed in each conversation - the ONLY thing that happened was that both listeners stopped matching and mirroring. The funny part is that in and of itself, this really doesn’t mean ANYTHING about the storytellers at all, good OR bad!
But just imagine the experience of the two story tellers - one woman felt empowered, or at least, didn’t feel bad about herself. The other felt insignificant and made herself wrong, which could have spiraled into a self-worth nightmare if she didn’t realize the truth of the exercise.

Which brings me back to my friend who sent me that email today - she took a few things that have happened, and attached the meaning that something was being “done to her”, and that it meant that she was “being outcast”. Ironically, a similar set of circumstances happened to me about two years ago - with the very same group of friends. I attached a completely different meaning to it: I took it as an invitation to grow and become a better person and a better friend - which I did, and now this group of friends is like my second family.

So I leave you with the question - what meanings do you attach to the interactions between you and your customers, your clients, and your own friends and family? Do the meanings empower you? Do the meanings empower others too? Do you ask to clarify what something means when you aren’t sure - or do you make assumptions based on what you think the person means?

And how do the meanings you attach affect your home based business? Do they work to hold you back  - or do they work to bring your business to the next level? :)

Add to Technorati Favorites

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Explore posts in the same categories: Empowerment

5 Comments on “Can Tiny Interactions have Big Consequences in your Business?”

  1. katiebird Says:


    I’ve been struggling with my comment. Being reluctant to dooce myself, I can’t go into the specifics of my story. Or even the generalities of it…

    But, I think I’m involved in an ongoing strange communication-confusion episode that involves some of the elements you’re touching on here tonight.

    It’s amazing how often your posts touch on current events in my life. I wish I was in a position to be more open about my situation. But, I’m glad to have this bit of guidence from you about how to handle it.

    Thank you.

  2. Angel Cope Says:

    Hi, in a marriage class Ben and I took a few years ago they had you tell your spouse something you felt, positive or negative, about them. Then they tell you what THEY HEARD you say. You are to go back and forth until you both agree on what was communicated. The point? What you actually say or mean is not always what someone hears you say. It is important to be clear and communicate effectively. This is easier for me online or over the phone, but remembering tone of voice, and body language is VERY important.
    Good stuff.
    P.S.- Loving the 10 days to a better blog!

  3. katiebird Says:

    (have you ever written out a long extended comment only to decide - just before hitting the submit - to erase the whole thing?)


    Because of the thoughts you’ve shared here, I went from hosting a meeting that was very nearly a total failure to running a meeting the next day that was so wildly successful, people were still talking about it the next day.

    My instinct after the debacle of the first meeting was to crawl into bed and not come out for the rest of the week. But thanks to your guidance, instead I could analyse what went wrong.

    And I made changes (moving us to a room where each of us could SEE each other for one thing) that made everyone involved more comfortable and frustration non-existent.

    Thank you so much — really!

  4. The Insurance Guy Says:

    I can understand what you are saying here, Wendy. Recently I was visiting my uncle in India. Now, this uncle has a notion that we in Australia think he is very poor and of “low class”. When I told him about the car I have, and that sometimes we have bbq in backyard, etc he though I was indirectly trying to put him down. That he is poor and can’t afford such things. The truth is I was only telling him intersting stories, etc. But he got rather upset and accused me of boasting about the high standards of living we enjoy in aus. Not much you can do with preconceived notions, paranoia, etc.

  5. Eat4Today » A place to discuss food and eating and the state of the world » Blog Archive » Blog Hopping on a Thursday Night Says:

    […] Wendy, at eMoms at Home Blog has a page filled with interesting posts. Two that meant a lot to me were, Can Tiny Interactions have Big Consequences in your Business? (which actually inspired a behavior change in me and improved the quality of the meetings I’ve been managing this week.) and Getting to “Ah-Ha” Moments (We’re always on the look-out for “Ah-Ha” Moments around here!) […]