A friend of mine recently asked me for some advice before attending an appraisal interview at work that she felt was going to be difficult. She outlined a couple of issues and we discussed a few strategies to mitigate them. After her appraisal, she called me and said she found it not in the least bit difficult and the outcome was really positive. What had happened?
Put simply, she talked less, asked penetrating questions and listened hard.
These seemingly straight forward but surprisingly difficult behaviours can help transform your relationship with clients and how you are perceived both internally and externally. Here’s how.
- Talk less
Nervous people talk too much, as do those unsure of their topic. They feel they have to justify. They might think they are being interesting; however, this is not always the case for the person listening! Another disadvantage to talking a lot, is that the more you say, the more the other person can find to object to and push back on, especially as it may not be entirely relevant to them. You may assume it is important to them when it isn’t.
- Ask questions
The great advantage of asking good questions is that you learn from the answers and particularly what is important to the other person. It shows you are interested (good) rather than talking too much which shows you think you are interesting (dangerous). The other great benefit of asking good questions is that it gets the other person talking. People like talking about themselves which is why we have to resist hogging the spot! Open questions tend to be better than closed ones at getting the other person talking. The best openers are ‘How?’, ‘What?’, ‘Why?’ and ‘Tell me more’.
- Listen more
Listen really hard to what the other person says. Use their answer to your questions as the mother to your next one. Listening hard is difficult. It is also really powerful as not only do you discover what is important to the other person, rather than what you assume is important to them or even important to you, but it shows that you care. And in this world where differentiation is so difficult, showing you care at a personal level rather than just about the fee is important.
So finally, where can you apply this? EVERYWHERE! Pitching, appraisals, client meetings, networking events. It is a universally effective communication style and, above all, shows you are interested rather than trying to be interesting.
Some words of warning though:
Do not assume this comes easily. You’ll have to work at it and force yourself to say less. Set an achievable goal for your first meeting and ask a couple of good questions derived from the other person’s answers.