To listen well you must resist the urge to pipe in your thoughts and experiences about the topic before the speaker finishes making his or her points. Practice following—rather than leading—the conversation with these four strategies:
- Encourage. Silent nods and other gestures of support indicate that you want to hear more.
- Inquire. Phrase questions so the speaker continues talking about the topic.
- Elaborate. Express your comments based on the speaker’s perspective.
- Redirect. Whenever possible, turn the conversation back to the speaker and away from you.
— Adapted from “Dr. Ray Guarendi on Following a Conversation,” Brainzooming, http://brainzooming.com.
When someone asks you a question in a negative tone, avoid the urge to respond in the same manner. Instead, include the question as part of your answer and neutralize the questioner’s negativity. Examples:
- “Why can’t you finish the report by noon?” Answer: “The noon deadline is as important to me as it is to you. To meet it, I need the sales data before 10 a.m.”
- “Why didn’t you use a spreadsheet?”Answer: “That’s a valid question. I based my decision on the complexity of the task you gave me.”
- “Why wouldn’t you want to work in sales?”Answer: “I’m pleased that you’ve considered me for a position in sales. Whether that would be a good experience for me depends on the company’s reorganization plan.”
- “Why aren’t you studying for the certification?” Answer: “I appreciate your interest in my studies. But studying for the exam and fulfilling my work requirements at the same time would strain me severely at the moment.”
You ask a coworker about the status of a project, and he starts talking about how his dog kept him up all night. Pulling a simple answer from someone who rambles on and on with seemingly no interest in making a point can test your patience.
Here’s how to help ramblers focus:
- Repeat your question. If the rambler veers off topic, cut in at the first opportunity and repeat what you asked, without sighing or fidgeting.
- Frame your answer. When you pose a question, offer two or three alternatives that reveal the type of answer you seek. Example: “Did you determine why that account expired. Was it because of a miscommunication, poor service or some other cause?”
- Explain why you need a quick, succinct answer. Example: “I’m asking you this because I have only 20 minutes to prepare for the meeting and I need those facts.”
- Ask for “the short version.” Genially request a “30-second overview” rather than a full analysis. Specify exactly what you need to know. Example: “Let’s have your bottom-line assessment of the top three downsides of pursuing this strategy.”
This is a guest post by Dan Waldschmidt.
Great people throughout history often fail, quite miserably, before finally reaching their goals, says international business strategist Dan Waldschmidt.
“Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime; Winston Churchill lost every public election until becoming prime minister at age 62; Henry Ford went bankrupt five times; Albert Einstein was a terrible student and was expelled from school; Sigmund Freud was booed from a stage,” says Waldschmidt, author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (www.EdgyConversations.com).
“Ideas, brilliance, genius – they all mean nothing without the guts, passion and tenacity necessary to make your dream a reality. But often, people fall back on excuses and give up on trying to reach their goals.” Most of us have dreams, and many of us have big ones, but few of us actually see them through, he says.
He offers six tricks for jumping off the excuse train and forge the path to your goals.
- Avoid the need to blame others for anything. Mean, small-minded people know that they suck. That’s why they are so cranky and eager to point out others’ mistakes. They hope that by causing others to feel inadequate, everyone will forget about how woefully off the mark their own performance is. Don’t blame anyone, for any reason, ever. It’s a bad habit.
- Stop working on things that just don’t matter. Not everything needs to be done in place of sleep. If you work for a boss, then you owe the person solid time. You can’t cut that out. You can, however, cut out television time, meetings and anything else that gets in the way of achieving your goals. Replace entertainment with activity toward your goal.
- Refuse to let yourself wallow in self-doubt. You’re alive to succeed. Stop comparing your current problems to your last 18 failures. They are not the same. You are not the same. Here’s something to remember: Your entire life has been a training ground for you to capture your destiny right now. Why would you doubt that? Stop whining. Go conquer.
- Ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” And then do it next time. If you spend a decade or two earnestly trying to be better, that’s exactly what will happen. The next best thing to doing something amazing is not doing something stupid. So learn from your mistakes and use the lessons to dominate.
- Proactively take time to do things that fuel your passion. Exercise is a great example. Living in the moment requires you to live at peak performance. A huge part of mental fitness is physical fitness. A sparring or running partner is a great way to refresh physical competition. Physical activity accelerates mental motivation.
- Apologize to yourself and those around you for having a bad attitude. Do this once or twice and you’ll snap out of your funk pretty fast. When you start genuinely apologizing for being a bad influence on those around you, you learn to stop whining and start winning.
Dan Waldschmidt is the author of “Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success,” (www.EdgyConversations.com). He is an international business strategist, speaker, author and extreme athlete. His consulting firm solves complex marketing and business strategy problems for savvy companies all over the world. Dow Jones calls his Edgy Conversations blog one of the top sales sites on the internet. He’s been profiled in BBC, Fox News and The Today Show, and he is a sought-after media source.