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“What is beauty? Beauty is something that can be appreciated by others. A beautiful mind is one that can be appreciated by others—usually through conversation.”

Edward de Bono, MD, PhD, (1933–), World renowned authority on creative thinking and author of How to Have a Beautiful Mind

Chapter Overview

Persons with a high level of social intelligence use their keenly tuned awareness to determine the spoken and unspoken behavioral requirements of the prevailing culture. Next, they use specific skills to engage others in an authentic way to develop and sustain meaningful relationships. These skills involve effective self-presentation, synchronizing content and emotions, and the use of engaging conversation. This chapter explores each of these elements in the context of building effective alliances for successful professional endeavors.

Key Terms

  • Impression formation

  • Nonviolent communication

  • Active listening

  • Neurolinguistic programming

  • Synchrony

Social Skills for Alliance Building: The Stages of Relationship Development

This section explores the stages of alliance building and discusses effective external communication skills to enhance each of these. Relationships progress through a series of related stages involving impression formation, building rapport, and attachment.

Impression Formation

In your classes on patient assessment, perhaps you have been told, “Your evaluation begins the moment you lay eyes on the patient.” The point of this adage is that your patients will present many important cues about themselves before even saying a word. Your awareness of these cues can be instrumental in facilitating your establishment of an authentic therapeutic connection. Regardless of the setting, whenever we meet someone for the first time, we are also engaged in the mutual process of self-presentation and the resultant formation of a first impression. This first impression influences the perceptions that guide our subsequent interactions with the person involved. Obviously, favorable first impressions are more likely to result in positive future interactions. In our fast-paced world, first impressions are used to determine suitability for employment, acceptance to educational programs, and even the potential for romance. The current concept of “speed dating,” where participants engage in a series of brief conversations (lasting as little as 3 minutes) with potential romantic partners, is based largely on how quickly people form first impressions. Interestingly, a 2005 study at the University of Pennsylvania found that participants in speed dating sessions had made their decisions in the first three seconds.1

First impressions are the result of subconscious multisensory neurological processing, known as “rapid cognition.”2 As soon as a person with whom we are about to interact enters our field of vision, our brains rapidly process visual input about their general appearance, including their posture, body language, and facial expression. Before a single word is exchanged, we have already made a subconscious assessment about their openness to interaction. For example, in most ...

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