Social jiu-jitsu in a Connection Economy

Recently I quoted Maya Angelou ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.

When I ask for feedback from my coaching clients, they often talk about how the session made them feel. The most frequent answer is that they feel listened to and that they don’t always find that to be the case in their relationships, whether that’s within or outside work. Why is that? Do we all feel like that? Do we all want to be heard?

I once had a dentist who I only saw once every six months. Mr Maher was a great dentist and also had an incredible gift for remembering our previous conversations. Every time I saw him, he’d ask me for an update on a particular situation he recalled from my last appointment. I felt like he was really interested in his patients and not just their teeth!

Jeff Haden has an idea for how we can help people feel listened to – he calls it social jiu-jitsu. Here’s how he describes it in his article, The 6 habits of remarkably likeable people:

‘You meet someone. You talk for 15 minutes. You walk away thinking, “Wow, we just had a great conversation. She is awesome.”

Then, when you think about it later, you realize you didn’t learn a thing about the other person.

Remarkably likeable people are masters at Social Jiu-Jitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened.’

Social jiu-jitsu moves us from small talk to a deeper conversation and that’s why it makes people feel that someone is really listening to them. It’s all about the questions. If someone tells you he’s just started a new project, don’t immediately tell him about the one you’re working on. Instead, ask him to tell you more about it. Ask him what he’s learning from it, what the biggest challenges have been, or what the benefits will be. He feels listened to: you’ve learnt something new and built a more significant relationship.

If you get nervous when you first meet someone so you jabber away about the first thing that comes into your head, you can use social jiu-jitsu to focus the conversation on your new acquaintance whilst you regain your composure. If you’re an extrovert who worries that you dominate the conversation, use social jiu-jitsu to re-balance the conversation in your colleague’s favour. If you’re an introvert who doesn’t like small talk, this is a good way to move beyond that.

It has been suggested that we now live in a Connection Economy: if that’s the case, social jiu-jitsu may be one way for us to build stronger connections.

Today’s pebble for you: Try out social jiu-jitsu this week and build a stronger connection with a colleague or friend.

I’d love to hear how it goes!


Turning over pebbles is the blog of Thinking Space Coaching. 

If you’d like to make progress in your work and life, why not email me to see how we could work together?



This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Social jiu-jitsu in a Connection Economy

  1. John says:

    This is such a simple, effective way of building new relationships. If this sort of interaction does not come naturally, it has the advantage of being something you can prepare for when you know you will be meeting new people: you can have a two or three good, open questions ready to go.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.