Chris Lakin

My favorite mental model for connecting with others.

This is my system for beginning to build meaningful relationships. 30 minutes of FMT with someone can make you feel closer to them than if you had otherwise spent 20 hours merely in each other’s presence.


Disclaimer

Using this model without caring about the other person and what they have to say is heartless.


Preface

Most things we talk about don’t matter.

Any specific topic. News or events. Gossip.

They don’t matter because there’s no emotion in them.

This also goes for most of the common questions we tend to ask when we meet someone: “How are you?” “What do you do?” “Where are you from?”

These are merely factual questions. When I’m asked these questions, I get disappointed. I know it’s going to be a boring conversation.

Questions with emotion are the only questions that matter.

Because of this, the model focuses on only the things that have emotion: Feelings, Motvations, and (character) Traits (‘FMT’).

1. Feelings

When I meet someone and want to really get to know them, I focus on asking questions with emotion.

How do you feel about X?”

I ask this, and then I stay silent. This lets them know that I actually want to listen to the answer.

I usually have to prod them a little bit into giving a longer answer, but overall I try not to talk too much. They need to feel that you actually want to hear the answer. (If you don’t want to hear it, stop!)

I know that if out of nowhere someone asks me a question like this (or like any other question in this model), I’m still a clam until I can trust that they care about the answer, won’t interrupt, are willing to listen (especially if I have a long answer), and will ask questions.


2. Motivations

After I ask about feelings a few times, I ask Why questions.

Why do you do X?”

Why do you think Y is important?”

Why do you hold [Z strong belief]?”

Again, all I’m trying to do is ask real questions that involve emotion.

As I do this, I also hesitate to state my own explanations for their motives presupposed in my questions (“Do you believe X because Y?”)—this can be annoying. I let them speak and try to keep all questions open-ended.

At no point will I hijack the conversation to be about myself. I won’t bring up related personal experiences.

If at any point I notice they’re hesitant, I express that it’s alright if they don’t want to talk about it, I was just curious. You have to show that you’re listening and that you’re invested in the answer, but you also have to be light and easygoing if they give resistance. Easygoing, but still curious. Some people will need more reassurance that others.

At no point will I independently declare that I completely understand what they feel or why they do something. As they explain their feelings and motivations, I try to explain back to them what I heard to see if I truly understand. You only understand another person when they think you do.


3. Character Traits

After inquiring about their feelings and motivations, I tend to ask, “Are you an X kind of person then?” and we talk about that.

With this question, I get to see how they see themselves.

I won’t ask about this until I don’t have to make any generic assumptions that stand to oversimplify the other person. (‘Obviously they do X because Y.’) That can be annoying.


4. Extension

Sometimes I also try asking, “In what other ways are you like that?”

Or perhaps, “What else has happened to you like that?”

I need to experiment more with these more though.


5. Never stop

As I get to know someone, I never stop asking, “How do you feel about that?”, “Why do you like that?”, “Why do you do that?”.

For one, I never know someone completely.

Secondly, people update.


Mnemonic

Feelings, Motivations, (character) Traits → FMT → Fairies Mine Trees


Personal note:

I said I was picky with friendships, but I’m probably much more inclined to befriend the type of person that’s reading my website. Reach out!— I’ve already met many interesting people through this website.

 

2020 July 25 (posted) - 2020 November 2 (revised)