by Achim Nowak

Here’s How You Have CHEMISTRY With More Folks

March 14, 2022

Personal chemistry is a wonderful thing, isn’t It?

Conversation flows. I feel at ease with you. We effortlessly pick up on each other’s cues. There is a shared sense of enthusiasm. We’re in sync.

And yes, we don’t have chemistry with everyone. That’s the part that sucks. But of this I am certain – successful individuals have more chemistry with more folks.

I want to back this assertion with irrefutable research. Truth is, there is shockingly little research on the matter. Do a google search on personal chemistry, and you will find heaps of dating advice. Mention personal chemistry in the workplace, and here is the sort of platitude you’re likely to hear about why you and I lack chemistry. Well, I’m an ENTJ and you’re an ISFP, so of course we don’t have chemistry. Our personalities just don’t match.

Hooey. Let’s leave psychological profiling – or shall I say brainwashing - out of it, please. We can have flawless chemistry with people whose personality traits are different from ours.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

Carl Jung

Let’s also dispense with the overly-easy NLP (Neuro-linguistic programming) recipes for personal chemistry. If they use visual cues, answer with visual cues. If they use auditory cues, respond in kind. This sort of matching can, indeed, foster connection. It does no, however, guarantee chemistry.

We cannot force chemistry. Chemistry is especially elusive with relentlessly negative people. If someone doesn’t want to play, s/he just doesn’t want to play.

But your and my behavior have the power to facilitate chemistry beyond an easy personality match. Here are some things that folks who are more frequently “in chemistry” do better than those who aren’t. Implement these behaviors.

How We Foster Greater Personal Chemistry

Switch between driving and being driven.

There are individuals who just like to drive the car. Hard. All the time. Chemistry with someone like that can be tough. Try to match a hard-charging driver, and the conversational verve will soon end up in a ditch.

Chemistry is much more likely when the role of conversational driver shifts back and forth between two individuals. The shift happens regardless of institutional authority. It happens organically, without pre-meditated cues. It happens in the moment because the moment suggests who will drive.

I call this co-driving. Not backseat driving. No, co-driving. The intuitive sharing of the driver role.

Genuinely appreciate the other.

I sometimes watch CNN in the morning. John Berman and Brianna Keilar. They have chemistry. I see no ego that needs to be smarter, right, have the final word, trump the other conversation partner. No dominance over appreciation.

What makes the dynamic between Keilar and Berman compelling is that they seem rather unlike each other. They’re not the two “made of the same cloth” best buds from the sports team that like to get drunk together after the game. No - they are two individuals who display distinctly different personas. Chemistry in the face of personality difference is possible because the difference is acknowledged and appreciated. Genuinely so.

Sense energy.

Ideas are energy. Emotions are energy. This energy can be harnessed or squelched. Folks who are more readily “in chemistry” with others sense this energy. They know how to ride it and expand it. They know how to sink into it. They’re also keenly aware when a communication is about to die. They sense this before it is blatantly obvious to everyone else. They choose to shift energy with a light touch, when needed.

Light touch does not mean “kill a conversation” or trivialize a tough topic or avoid conflict. Yes, there is that word again, shift. And because they do the shifting with a light touch the other person happily follows.

They are, in the best sense of the phrase, energy workers.

Be curious.

In a professional setting, true chemistry is impossible if we’re not curious about another person. Curious about what animates that person. Curious about the ideas being expressed, even when we disagree with them. When another person is primarily a transactional necessity or a barrier that I need to overcome (or more specifically, get what I want!), chemistry will not happen.

Genuine curiosity cannot be faked. I can tell, on the unspoken soul- or spirit-plane, whether you’re interested in anything that emanates from me. When you’re not, it registers. You will receive transactional behavior, in turn. We may have a perfectly pleasant, productive and professional conversation. Chemistry won’t happen.

I don’t require a neuroscientific explanation for everything. But if you long for a deeper scientific exploration of this mysterious dynamic we call chemistry, check out the research by Uri Hasson at Princeton. Hasson researches how people get into sync. He calls this process neural coupling. A fine entry point to Hasson’s work is this TED blog that elaborates on Hasson’s 2016 TED talk:

https://blog.ted.com/what-happens-in-the-brain-when-we-hear-stories-uri-hasson-at-ted2016/

Chemistry will NOT happen with everyone. It’s a relief to know that. But your and my behaviors will facilitate chemistry or deny it. So GO, be a chemistry facilitator. More chemistry invokes more enjoyable human encounters.

What a cool thing that is.

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