Talking Business – so people want to listen
How to talk about your business so that people want to listen to you? Too few business owners ask themselves that simple question. It’s a pity. Because the answer could radically change how you run your business.
My conversation with Jerry began with his question: “How do I get people to listen to me without trying to own the whole room?” He’d just returned to the networking scene after a two-year pause due to Covid.
How to talk about your business is a problem for most, but particularly for quiet, private professionals and business owners like Jerry, who are genuinely interested in having a conversation with a few people at these events, instead of ‘playing the room’. And his dilemma is just as applicable to the online world.
The Alternative way to Communicate
What Jerry wanted to know was this: could I offer him an alternative way to communicate beyond the standard solution – shout louder and longer as a way of being heard (which doesn’t work anyway)? He wanted to learn this essential business skill: how to talk about your business so that you easily reach the right audience.
Yes, I could. But it’s not a simple, one-step solution.
Basically, to get people to listen to what you say, YOU have to first become a better LISTENER yourself. Remember the basic principle of successful communication. People are more willing to listen to you when they feel heard by you.
Becoming a better listener is about becoming an ACTIVE listener, not, as is often suggested in the abundance of cheat-sheets on the topic, someone who simply nods, interjects with a “mm-hmm” and summarises what the speaker has just said. When we ‘perform’ the act of listening, we are focused on ourselves and our own responses, not on what the other is communicating. Active listening demands our undivided attention on what the other is saying.
The Art of Active Listening
Active listening is about engaging, interacting with the other. It’s a two-way exchange – it’s a dialogue.
Dialogue is about listening deeply to what the other is saying with interest and curiosity, reflecting on it with openness and non-judgement and only then responding. We can respond with relevant questions which let the others know that we didn’t just hear their words. Our questions tells them we want to understand them better, know more about them, go deeper.
The opposite to dialogue is a one-way broadcast, or monologue, usually a series of monologues in the fashion of a game of tennis, with each side trying to score a point, i.e. win the argument as in the art of debating.
So how do we practise dialogue in our daily business interactions?
Here are ‘few’ dos and don’ts to help you recognise the difference between dialogue and monologue – and, of course, choose the better option. They don’t just apply to quiet, conscientious people, like Jerry, nor to your business communication. They are relevant for how you communicate in every aspect of life.
- start talking about yourself. Start by discovering who the other is.
- use buzz-words and jargon. They are empty fillers and they kill dialogue (how ‘super’ and ‘awesome’ is everyday life?)
- put forward you opinions and beliefs as ‘The Truth’. It puts the other on the defensive immediately
- try to impress or convince with arguments. They are counter-productive – and they also kill dialogue.
- speak in simple, clear, direct language
- go for being your imperfect, real self, not some ‘best version’.
- choose honesty instead of influence. It’s one of foundation stones to building mutual trust
- strive to understand what drives the other – especially if it challenges you
How we communicate is how we live
Dialogue is a way of communicating and how we communicate is how we live and how we relate to the world around us. In our increasingly polarised world, isn’t it time we all learned and practised the art of dialogue with each other?