Are You Out of Synch With ________?

Are you out of synch with (fill in the blank)?

We all know the feeling. We’re not on the same page, or we misread a situation. In a conversation, we need to course correct, or worse, in a negotiation, we have to take back control. Luckily Cal Fussman and Kobe Bryant are here to help.

Cal recently interviewed Kobe on his podcast “Big Questions.” The whole interview is well worth your time, but let’s hit some highlights. Cal asked Kobe about the time Matt Barnes faked as if he was going to hit him directly in the face, from inches away with an inbounding pass – and Kobe didn’t even flinch. What follows is an explanation of how he knew he wouldn’t dare get a technical foul in a major game, therefore he was 100% confident he was just trying to get into his head. If you can’t imagine how ice-blooded Kobe ended up looking after the exchange, check out that link.

Earlier in the conversation, Kobe explained that basketball is a game of movement, pattern recognition, and rhythm. Not only does a player need to understand his own rhythm, but he has to use all of his senses to understand the opponents. In competition, making an assessment and controlling that rhythm is how you win. With Barnes, he knew the intensity he was playing with, and the intent of his pump fake.

Cal relates Kobe’s interpretation of “the language beneath the language” that is feeling the non-verbal rhythm to interviewing. In his world, instead of trying to understand the other person’s rhythm to take control, he is focused on getting into lockstep with them, and directing them deeper and deeper into a groove. Comfort is what draws out the interesting stuff he says. If he can help them find that rhythm and then stay in it, much as he does with Kobe in this conversation, magic happens.

Both situations start with firing up all of your senses to be present and in the moment. Focus is key. Next, you have to be aware if you are trying to be cooperative or non-cooperative. There’s a separate playbook for each, and we can use game theory to improve our odds of success. We’ll spend some time exploring each in the coming days.

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