In response to my post, “Relationship Building Technique #4: Acknowledgement,” a reader emailed the following observation:
I often find this is a simple [technique], which has a very sensitive component to it and is frequently very “fake” . . . . I know of several peers whom I converse with who “appear” to be practicing acknowledging and listening to others. . . . I have noticed over time, for example, although they may seem engaged and interested at the very moment, they are either preoccupied (and do a good job of hiding it) or are insincere . . . . This is often evident in subsequent conversations with them as you realize they have very little memory of prior conversations. . . .
First, these techniques won’t have the same effect on everyone. Obviously, they didn’t work on this person. However, why this occurred isn’t simply a case of the speakers being insincere; it could just be that they were very different from the listener. The latter could have been born with much greater sensitivity than the others were and thus greater sincerity.
As a result, despite the listener’s view, it’s very possible that the speakers felt that they were sincere. Furthermore, they might not even be self-aware enough to know they were coming across as insincere. It’s also quite possible that they didn’t care.
We need to remember that any human attribute will vary widely across individual humans. That’s why not remembering might be a sign of poorer memories than the listener’s and not just lesser abilities to express sincerity. Thus, the problem isn’t so much one of sincerity or listening but rather one of differences in personalities. It’s going to be very difficult for less sensitive people to convince those with higher sensitivities that they are being sincere.