This week is extra special for me – I can’t talk.
I almost completely lost my voice while in Scotland on a 5 day trip. Turns out its capricious weather and drinking whisky while singing I’m gonna be 500 miles is a voice killer combination 😃.
I wanted to take advantage of this whole situation so I decided to make an experiment. To go ahead with all the plenty of meetings I had planned in London face to face and the virtual ones, and do not cancel them. Especially, that people whom I was supposed to see had to put some effort to get into or move around London during full-scale transport strikes happening this week.
Since I could not talk a lot, I wondered how would the conversations go and would I get a better understanding of the other person’s situation than I usually do (many of those meetings were with our clients and prospects)? Well, ok, I also speak Italian so my body language, smile and gestures often reveal a lot more than words ever could.
How to win friends
You’ve probably heard of Dale Carnegie’s “How to win friends and influence people”. This bestselling book is all about communication and interpersonal relationships. One of the most valuable advice Carnegie gives, is that if you can become a great listener and encourage others to speak about themselves, then you’ll gain their respect and admiration.
Best way to do that? Just shut up.
Think back to the last time you went out on a date or you met a new person and you went home thinking “Wow, I really enjoyed myself. We had a great conversation and he/she was really interesting.” How much did you talk about yourself, and how much did they speak about themselves?
Now, try to think about the last date or sales pitch you experienced that was truly terrible and you just wanted the misery to end. Chances are, they spoke about themselves the whole time and barely asked any questions about your situation.
We all want to be heard.
So what you’re saying is…
In his bestselling book about negotiations “Never split the difference”, Chris Voss advises to always reflect back to other people what they just said. A great way to show that you’re listening and that you understand what is being said is to repeat back what you’ve just heard.
Another great tip Chris gives is that in negotiations, you never want to be the first one to give the number. You want to listen to learn about the pain points of the other person. You want the other person to speak, so you can have an anchor, the point from which you can start your negotiations and arrive to your desired number.
What does a great psychologist or a business coach do? They ask a few questions and then just listen. In sales, if you overwhelm the other person bragging about your company, they will feel ignored and they will ignore you in return. It’s not about you, make it about them. You’re here to help THEM.
People will tell you their concerns, fears and problems only if you let them. Sure you can prepare the grounds, share your story, show your vulnerable side to encourage the other person to open up, but once you’ve done this, let them speak without interruption.
The worst thing you can do is to prepare your response while the other person is talking. It shows that you’re not really “in” the conversation, you’re just trying to prove your point. We often try to predict what others are going to say next and just say that as if we hoped to score some kind of bingo points. When we do this, we formulate answers based on what we think they are going to say, rather than what they are actually saying.
Be water, my friend
Jordan Peterson’s 9th rule for life says that we should assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t. And I think it’s very true. I always seek other person’s perspective. Of course, I’m only human so I often fall victim of a unconscious bias, but I try to be aware of it and challenge my thinking. I know I live very much in a privileged bubble (tech, London, access to education, lots of opportunities, free speech, healthy lifestyle etc.) and my world may not be theirs.
Everybody says that you should never be the smartest guy in the room, because if it’s the case, then you’re in the wrong room and won’t learn anything. So I practice humbleness by letting others speak. Everyone has unique experiences, skills, and talents that I can learn from.
I love meeting all sorts of people in unconventional places; rickshaw drivers, artists, nomads, tech people and find a thought, that could inspire me.
Although I’m much of an extrovert, I like to take a back seat (ok, semi) in a group. I kick start, fire up the conversation in the room and then I shut up, occasionally directing the conversation or throwing ideas for others to consider. And then I observe.
You’ll command attention when you finally do speak
How much did the Godfather talk 🤌🏼 ?
Very little, and when he did – it was important. Why is it that so many successful people are able to walk into a room and instantly command attention? Sure, their success itself is an influencing factor – people want to hear what successful people have to say. But successful people often choose to refrain themselves from speaking, and when they finally do speak, what they say has more impact.
Small dogs bark the most but they are often harmless.