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Yet Another Reason the Four Rules Work

Whether or not you believe that people love to talk about themselves, read on.

I was recently asked to write four consecutive articles on my Four Rules of Engagement for an industry newsletter. I created these four rules over fifteen years ago. After over fifteen years, countless seminars, leadership training sessions, and over one million miles of air travel, I am even more committed to the knowledge that the four rules of engagement are at the heart of all human interaction. They drive relationships, friendships, arguments and yes, the bottom line of an organization.

The Four Rules of Engagement

  1. Everyone is always right.
  2. Everyone’s greatest desire is to be right.
  3. You can’t change another person’s mind.
  4. You can help people shift their perspective.

These rules require that we not only understand our own needs, biases, and stories, but that we are in tune with the needs, biases, and stories of those we engage with on a day-to-day basis. This requires a willingness to listen, to let other people speak, and even allow them to discover, rather than being told. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

But as is often the case in life, our human tendencies get in the way. I recently read about a study of the brain by Harvard University neuroscientists* that demonstrates why putting something like the Four Rules to work can be difficult, but can also be easy—both for the very same reason. That reason is:

People love to talk about themselves.

Status updates, tweets, instagram posts…all of these allow people to not only talk about themselves, but to engage with others while doing so. These types of communication are prolific because they appeal to our very nature.  Everyone seeks validation.  (Yes, everyone—especially those who say they don’t care what other people think about them.)

Here is a quick summary of the science behind this based on five brain imaging and behavioral experiments by Harvard University neuroscientists* that proves that people love to talk about themselves:

  • About 40% of everyday speech is devoted to how we feel and think
  • When we talk about ourselves, the same area of the brain is activated as when we experience other pleasures, like food, money, and sex.
  • Self-disclosure is even more compelling to some than money. In one of the studies, volunteers rejected a financial incentive in favor of talking about themselves.

To make the Four Rules work for you, stop talking about yourself and start to ask questions and listen empathically. Get people to talk about themselves. It will light up their brain in a good way. And take heed: if you are talking about yourself too much and are trying too hard to influence others, you are missing out on one of the best parts of life—making real and sincere, human connections.

To learn more, check out the article in the Wall Street Journal.  To learn more about how to make the Four Rules of Engagement enhance your career and your home life, check out these additional resources:

Audio and Exercises on the Four Rules on the Caruso Leadership website

Get The Power of Losing Control from our store or Amazon

An education partner, Selling to Schools, features a series on this topic as it relates to the sales process. The links below take you to our articles on their website:

*Source: Science Reveals Why We Brag So Much, The Wall Street Journal, (US Edition), May 8, 2012.

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