W.A.I.T. – Why Am I Talking?

Tips to Increase Your Influence Through Effective Communication

As a general rule we all talk too much and don’t listen enough! If your first thought is that this is not about you, keep reading, it’s especially about you (and me).

Now, I am a professional speaker; it is my job to speak. But that is when I am on stage. What I am talking about here is when we are with others in a one-on-one or one-on-small group environment. It is so tempting to jump in and hijack the conversation. Whether you are in sales or in parenting, speaking less and listening more is ALWAYS good. BTW, if you are in parenting you are especially in sales.

Master Communicator? Me?

I was once at a business reception and I was speaking with a colleague I didn’t know that well. I asked three questions about their professional history, what they loved about their role in the organization and what they valued most in their work and personal life. I was interested in learning more about them and I enjoyed the conversation very much. As we parted ways the colleague told me I was a great communicator. But wait, they did all the talking!

I would like to provide some tips on how you can perceived as a master communicator when others are doing the talking.

Why Am I Talking (W.A.I.T.)?

People care about three things, themselves, their victories and their challenges. If you are talking about yourself, you are not talking about something in the top three of what they care about. The truly outstanding communicators among us have figured this out and direct their conversations accordingly.

  1. Dare to be Dumb – do you really know everything there is to know about everything? I didn’t think so. Why not ask questions even though you think you already know the answer. It is in listening to the answers others provide where the learning occurs. Learning about the subject, perhaps, but more importantly learning about how they think and feel about the subject.
  2. Master the Pause – it is so tempting to wait for the other person to take breath and mistake that as our invitation to dive in. When someone stops talking, master the pause. Allow a few seconds to elapse to ensure they have completely finished their thought. It is amazingly refreshing to be speaking with someone that is not trying to jump in all the time. Be that person.
  3. Don’t top someone’s story – I am very guilty of this one. I am a highly experienced global traveler. I have been to 40+ countries and I have a ton of stories and experience. When someone starts talking about some travel experience they have had it is really easy for me to say, “That’s nothing compared to the time I…..” To increase my influence with others I am working hard to say, “That must have been harrowing, tell me more.” Let others have their story. If they ask you about yours, got for it, but in most cases they don’t care as much about your experience as they do about telling you their experience.
  4. Ask yourself these W.A.I.T. questions:
    1. Is this the time to share? Is what I want to share on topic? Don’t divert the conversation away from what they are speaking about just because, “that reminds me of a time when…”
    2. Is it my turn to share? See item #2 above. Are you mastering the pause?
    3. Is what I want to share going to add to or subtract from what they are sharing? The temptation here is to divert the conversation from them to you. Item #3 above should keep you grounded here.
    4. If you do interject, be concise. Add value and then shut up.

How you communicate with others had an enormous impact on how much influence you have with others. Improve your communication, improve your results by increasing your influence.

Photo Credit – Graphicstock.com

When Was the Last Time Someone Brought You Bad News?

5 Indicators of Highly Approachable People

Some years ago, as the father of teenagers, it occurred to me one day that all I was hearing from them was the good things that were happening. There were no challenges, no issues, and no bad news. About the same time I was leading a team of sales people who were exhibiting the same communication characteristics. It then occurred to me that teenagers and sales people have a lot in common. What both groups seemed to have forgotten is that I was once a teenager and I was once a sales person. There are issues, there are challenges and there is the occasional bad news.

If people are comfortable sharing the bad news with you then you are more than likely an approachable individual. If not, then perhaps one or more of the following five indicators of approachable people is keeping you from deep and meaningful relationships.

Approachable leaders, whether leading at home or at work, engage their followers at a high level and increase their performance and their results.

The 5 Indicators of Highly Approachable People

  1. Authenticity – approachable people are real people. They don’t pretend to have it all together when they don’t. They don’t perform for others, they are comfortable just being themselves with all the good and bad that comes with that.
  2. Consistency of Mood – It’s tempting to over celebrate the good and over condemn the bad. If you exhibit large mood swings people will avoid doing or saying anything to “set you off”. Mind the gap between stimulus (someone sharing bad news) and your response. If there is little or no gap you are reacting not responding and that almost never goes well.
  3. Confess Mistakes – I was wondering why teenage son did not confess his mistakes to me when it occurred to me that I never confessed my own mistakes to him (or anyone). I seemed perfect and the last thing anyone wants to do is confess mistakes to a perfect person. While I wasn’t meaning to come off as perfect, I was trying not to seem weak, and that’s what I thought mistakes said about me. Sharing mistakes opens the door to what Dr. John Maxwell calls, “Failing Forward”. Once we began to share openly we could help each other to learn and grow from every mistake.
  4. Ability to Forgive – people who are not forgiving of the shortcomings of others will not do well in the drive to be more approachable. If you ask for forgiveness and easily forgive those who have wronged you, then you do not allow walls to be constructed between you and others.
  5. Others Oriented – if all of life is about you, then you are not an approachable person. Approachable people value others and make them feel valued. If you put other people first then it becomes easy to celebrate with those who celebrate and mourn with those who mourn. Someone else being successful does not take anything away from you.

Bonus: Mind Your Face – Smile more! People are drawn to people who greet them with a smile!

When you increase your approachability you will increase your influence with others. Increasing your influence will increase their desire to engage with you in whatever you are trying to accomplish. Higher engagement equals improved performance equals better results.

5 Signs That Complacency is Killing Your Dreams

And What To Do About It!

Complacency is the silent killer of success. You enjoy some success and then you back off. You do something great and then you slow down. It’s human nature and something you must fight against. Here are five signs that complacency may be killing your dream, and what you can do about it.

1. You compare yourself to others to gauge your success

Legendary basketball coach, John Wooden said, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Pro Tip: Don’t compare yourself to others. Compare yourself to the you that you are capable of becoming. Challenge yourself every day to grow in some small way.  Work on creating your personal development plan.

2. You don’t have a clear goal

Many people embrace complacency because they just don’t know where they want to go. If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.

Pro Tip: Spend a few minutes thinking of where you would like to be 12 months from now in your work life and in your personal life. Once you know that, determine 3-6 things that you need to do to begin moving in that direction.

3. You are not clear on your priorities

If everything seems important then nothing is important. You must be clear on your most important tasks. Most of us are trying to do too many things. We become experts at majoring on minor things.

Pro Tip: Your priorities, your BIG Rocks, should consist of the things you need to do to move closer to the goal you set in Item #2 above.

4. You fill available time with entertainment

There is nothing wrong with entertainment. What’s wrong is when you fill any open time you have with your Netflix subscription. The people I coach often tell me they don’t have time for some of the personal development suggestions I give them (Read a book, listen to a podcast, etc.). Then, when we look deeper at where their time is spent or invested we find a healthy dose of entertainment keeping them from making progress in their lives.

Pro Tip: Use your daily commute or other travel time to listen to audio books (www.audible.com). Be intentional about when you SPEND time on entertainment, and be intentional about when you INVEST time in you.

5. You use words like, “I don’t have the time”, instead of “I didn’t take the time”.

The one phrase I do not allow people to say is, “I don’t have time to…” The fact is that we all have the same amount of time. The more accurate phrasing is, “I didn’t take the time to…”

You vote on what’s important in your life (a priority) based on how you spend or invest your time. If it’s something you want to do you will find a way to do it. If not, you will find an excuse.

Pro Tip: Never use the words “I didn’t have time” again. Always say, “I didn’t take the time”. Take note of the things you did do with your time and see if it matches up to what you said was important in your life.

Photo Credit: Graphicstock.com

Storytelling to Drive Results

Before I got married I am pretty sure I had never once been in an antique store. I figured I had worked hard to get a degree and get a job so I could buy new things. Why would anyone want to buy old things? But, as I said, that was before I got married. Since that time antique stores have become almost a weekly event and I am actually finally learning how to enjoy them.

One thing I notice in antique stores is how something that looks like a piece of junk can take on a completely different appearance when the person offering the junk puts a story with it. “Yes sir, that pocket watch you hold in your hands may not look like much, but let me tell you a little bit about that baby…” You might as well hand over the credit card right then.

Adding Value, Making a Connection

When I was first working my way up the public speaking ladder from one small event to another I would often overwhelm my audiences with facts and figures and PowerPoint charts that would test the limits for words on a page. I was less than engaging. Then I learned the power of stories. I decided that the minute I was introduced I would start a story. No “hello”, no “good to be here”, just a standing start right into a story. The response was amazing. My connection with the audience grew as did their engagement with me and my subject.

Why Does Story Connect

NYU Psychologist, Jonathan Haidt was quoted as saying, “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.” From the responses I see when I resort to story to communicate a teaching point I would say he is 100% correct.

Stories capture attention and open a door for a deeper connection. I once started a story by talking about my teenage son. I saw people in the audience begin to smile and shake their heads. “Yep, my boy does that exact same thing.” They would mouth to each other.

Stories make you seem human, especially if the story is about you and a challenge you have faced and overcome. People respond very positively to authenticity and humility in others. Plus, telling a story on yourself almost always generates a laugh and the only thing better than a story is a funny story.

Getting Started

If you think that storytelling is for creative people and you’re not creative, well you need to get over yourself and try anyway. I usually start with the point I want to make and then think of situations where that has happen to me or where I saw it happen to someone else. If I need to change names or circumstances to keep things anonymous I will do that.

Here’s an example: When my son was a teenager and looking for a job, he secured an interview with a local company. I suggested he wear a suit to the interview, but he didn’t think that was necessary for the type of job he was going for. Now, I could have argued with him about it, but instead I sat back in my chair and smiled, “That reminds me of a time when I went to an interview when I was about your age. I was applying for a stockroom job so I wore casual pants and a dress shirt. When I walked into the interview the person I was meeting barked at me, “You don’t own a suit!” I assured him I did and he barked again, “Don’t you think today would have been the day to wear it??” He dismissed me with no further questions. Turns out they did originally need stockroom help, but were now looking for certain individuals to help them up front with some customer service work. A higher paying job, might I add.”

My son looked at me and quietly said, “I’ll wear the suit.”

Stories communicate on a different level and help you connect strongly with others.

Photo Credit – www.graphicstock.com