Next time you watch a debate on TV take note of the points and counterpoints made. It is usually a battle of ideas with one party trying to step on and knock out the other. In many companies the same thing happens when one executive is trying to make his case a little stronger than the other.

Unfortunately, too many people use the same technique in trying to persuade someone or to make a sale. Here is a recent encounter I had with a sales consultant. I was questioning the comparable features offered by two different iPhone telecommunications carriers.  During the conversation I pointed out that one carrier had an additional benefit.  The additional benefit enabled the user to check an email or check on the Internet while using the phone. The consultant shot back, “you’re not going to surf the internet while you are driving.”  What? How did he make that leap? I had a legitimate reason for wanting this service.  When I am at a remote office I can email something to a client while we are speaking.  I do most of my work out of the office.  I think I had a legitimate need but he was not listening nor had he asked about my needs.  He was only trying to steer me. 

The point is that we need to listen twice as much as we talk.  That is why we have two ears and one mouth.  In order to connect with people we have to communicate and communication is a two way street.  I think it’s a fair statement to say that how well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness, and on the quality of your relationships with others.

For some reason people place a high priority on speaking and presentation skills but do not place the same emphasis on listening skills.  Without downgrading the importance of good speech, it would be better for us to upgrade the importance and quality of our listening habits.  If we believe that empathy is an important trait then we should realize that is impossible to understand people are thinking or feeling if we do all the talking.

For better results follow these 10 keys to selling yourself and influencing others

1.     Stop Talking.  You can’t talk and listen at the same time.

2.     Focus on the other person.  Give the other person your undivided attention.

3.     Show active participation.  Nod, ask questions, try to understand and give your full attention.

4.     Empathize.  Take a moment to understand the other person’s viewpoint even if you disagree.

5.     Keep an open mind. Be very slow to disagree or criticize.  Ask questions to probe for understanding.

6.     Have patience for people who take longer to express themselves.

7.     Nonverbal signals have more meaning than the words.  Are the nonverbal signals in sync with the words?

8.     Watch for your nonverbal signals and control your emotions.

9.     Provide feedback.  For example, paraphrase with, "What I'm hearing is," and "Sounds like you are saying."

10.  Lighten up.  Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously.  Appropriate humor can help to insure positive outcomes.


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