In our last post, we took a look at how reading between the lines – looking for the messages hidden beneath the surface – can help you increase your political game and get you one step closer to mastering the secret handshake. This week, as we continue with our series on The Secret Handshake: Mastering The Politics of The Business Inner Circle by Dr. Kathleen Reardon, we will examine how we can adapt our communication style to become more politically savvy, and create more favorable relationships.
Relationships are formed when people interact with each other. Of course, there are rules in place, often unspoken and sometimes subconscious, about who can speak to whom, when, where and how. According to Dr. Reardon, those who have reached the inner circle have learned these rules implicitly, and know how to use them to their advantage. In addition, the politically adept process information selectively; they do not process all information in the same way, as some information is more important than others. Because of this, it is important to become a “sophisticated interpreter of meanings” (Reardon 104). So, how to become a politically savvy conversationalist?
A politically savvy individual knows how to steer conversations subtly in directions that are conducive to one’s personal goals. Every time someone says something to you verbally or relays a nonverbal message, you have a choice to make. Which direction do you want to take this information in?
Developing a Repertoire of Responses
A critical part of learning how to converse using politics is to create options for yourself so that you do not fall into conversational traps. This includes being versatile in your responses; predictability is “a career kiss of death” (Reardon 111)!
Managing conversations is difficult when you become emotional. Remember to respond, rather than react.
What truly separates the novice from the politically savvy conversationalist is how they handle themselves under pressure. Again, the key is to respond rather than react.
The Political Dance
What happens when you take something too far, or insult someone during a conversation? How do you fix this? Dr. Reardon calls this the political dance. It simply involves complimenting someone, genuinely, who expects you to attack them because the two of you are at odds. These compliments must make sense in the context of the conversation, otherwise they are useless, and possibly even more damaging!
The whole notion of the secret handshake is a bit like a dance. It is a talent, involving (often tricky) steps, and when successful, absolutely beautiful to watch. Keeping this in mind, like any dance with steps, this dance can also be learned and perfected over time. And once you know the steps, you’ll remember them for life.
Reardon, Kathleen Kelley. The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the business inner circle. New York: Doubleday, 2001. Print.