Meeting people by chance is something that happens all the time. We bump into someone at the supermarket, playground, on an airplane, on the bus, and we get chatting. Mostly we walk away having had a pleasant encounter and forget all about it. However, chance meetings can contain valuable opportunities dished up to us daily if we’re willing to spot them and seize them.
The need to get better at asking for what you want often appears when you are facing an extreme situation of some kind. Perhaps you are running the risk of losing a key client or relationship; or you need to keep on top form while your business is on a winning streak. It may be a work situation where you may be on the brink of promotion or perhaps have failed to secure the job you want. It can also be a personal situation that has you at the end of your tether.
There are three tips you can learn and start applying right now that will have the biggest impact on your success at asking for and getting what you want. They simply involve getting your head around how you ask.
Here’s a good way to check and see if you are good at the basics of business conversation. In my experience, the people who are best at it tend to:
Speak often and briefly (usually 15-30 seconds)
Ask more types of questions than others (not too many open questions that end up going nowhere fast and not too many closed questions that feel like an interrogation)
Make fewer solution statements early in a conversation/discussion
Headline their points in a sentence or two (this makes it easier to go away and repeat them to others)
Summarize often (aids in checking for understanding)
Invites others to share their views (and means it)
Unless passing on decisions, interjects views after others have had a chance to speak
Actively omit too much ‘you know’ and ‘uh’, not speak too rapidly or forcefully
Simplify and emphasize
Even the Saints among us don’t converse this well all the time. Try on one or two of these techniques for size in your next conversation and the rest will follow more easily.
This is one of his posts today – particularly relevant because in our world of subject matter experts we forget we have little expertise unless it means something to someone else. Take the focus off your smarts and put it on to your listener. A very powerful combination.
I have always thought that cultivating an air of mystery can be too much hard work. In order to achieve it requires that you always know what to withhold, when and from whom. It means you consciously create question marks and distractions that keep people guessing. It is a difficult objective and one that that will only partly serve you.
There is not such a big difference between the person who always says what they are thinking and feeling and those who hold back because they feel they have nothing to add. Both lack real self-confidence.
The sustainable answer lies in cultivating a blend of openness and mystery.
It is a good thing to practice more direct language. This means to focus clearly on what you want and spell it out in the fewest words possible. Some tips to try:
Replace ‘Could you help me’ with ‘Would you help me?’. Doing this will invoke very different response from people.
Practice statements without follow-on ‘tag’ questions, like ‘don’t you think?’ or “Isn’t it?’
Think about how to state things more directly. For example;
‘I don’t think we have talked about this enough’ becomes ‘would you schedule a meeting so we can discuss this in more detail?’
‘Sorry, I don’t think this is going to work’ becomes ‘I have considered the idea and I am not interested in pursuing it’
‘I don’t have time to finish this and I think I need some help’ becomes ‘Would you handle the completion of this proposal?’
Focusing on what you want makes direct language easier. Or is it the other way around?
Last week I met with a client who is managing a major project and working long days and weekends to meet deadlines. She is also suffering from a crisis in her self-confidence. In her case, the link between physical stress and mental well-being struck with a vengeance.
When you are feeling emotionally distressed or tired it is important to be aware that what you are thinking may not be helpful or realistic. It’s good practice under stressful circumstances to recognize that when you are feeling down, anxious or guilty to let some of these thoughts pass you by rather than treat them as facts.
Last week I was reminded about the power of rehearsal. Such a simple idea that everyone accepts as common sense – yet making it happen is a bit like pulling teeth. The challenge is – I work in a world of subject matter experts, many who by nature believe their ‘expertness’ translates effortlessly into skills at the podium.
Reminder: The best communicators become experts at rehearsal.
Rehearsing is an act of humility – a gift you give yourself and the audience. It is a listening skill, meaning, when you do the right amount of the right kind of rehearsal, you are ramping up your ability to relax and pay attention in the moment. Sounds like fun.
The right amount of the right kind of rehearsal involves some planning. When the stakes are high, rehearsal is typically done a minimum of three times, over time with other people listening and in an environment that is similar to the one you will be in on the day.
Rehearsing gives your message and ideas their first breath of life.
I spent the last eight weeks with a group of dynamic and interesting people who had signed up for my class at Stanford University called Business Presence and Persuasion; Face to Face Communication for Effectiveness. What struck me most was the energy, enthusiasm and stamina everyone brought to the class as week after week. They offered challenges, ideas and curiosity by the bucket-load.read more