You’ve probably figured out by now that you can’t make a living selling to your friends. Neither do you have the luxury of choosing your colleagues, your boss, your clients or your colleagues in other firms. So learning how to establish rapport with all sorts of people is crucial. Conversation has power. I want you to use it correctly.
Words mean things. Your business success depends, at least in part, on three important communication components:
- Your ability to use the right words (or at least avoid the wrong ones!)
- Your ability to understand your audience
- Your ability to listen actively
Use the right words.
“He who hesitates is lost,” so the old proverb says. You may be reducing your ability to influence people by using hesitant words and phrases in your conversations. Here are five phrases that indicate weakness or a lack of confidence, and what you can say instead:
Weak: “I could be wrong about this, but…” When people hear you say “I could be wrong,” they are very likely to tune out whatever comes after and assume that you probably ARE wrong! If you are sure of your facts or even if you are giving your opinion, simply say it with confidence. Using a qualifier dilutes your power and often invalidates your intent.
Better: “I believe that. . .”
Weak: “I’m just a…” (fill in the blank—secretary, new employee). Never put yourself down, no matter what your position. State what you can do or refer the person to someone else who can help more effectively.
Better: “Susan is the best person to help you with that.”
Weak: “I’m not really sure.” Most people want to be sure that they are speaking to someone who can answer their question and handle their business. If you don’t know the answer, tell the other person that you will find the information they need.
Better: “Let me find out and get back to you.” If you can add a by-when time to your response, your positive influence on your listener improves.
Weak: “In my opinion…” Omit this intro phrase unless you’re contrasting your opinion with someone else’s. Just make your statement.
Better: “Home values are increasing because…” or “I disagree with that policy because…” Adding a “because” statement immediately reinforces your credibility and encourages other people to discuss and agree.
Weak: “Is it okay if I ask a question?” This useless question adds nothing to the flow of the discussion and diminishes your credibility.
Better: Simply ask your question or wait until you’ve heard enough discussion to make sure your question is appropriate.
Using strong, positive words will have a significant impact on others’ perceptions. Changing your language from negative to positive statements will increase your confidence, self-esteem and your ability to influence and persuade other people.
Understand your audience. Your audience may be a new client across the desk, your boss in a staff meeting, or a roomful of new trainees. Know who you’re trying to reach and, if possible, understand how they communicate. In a previous blog, we talked about the four communication styles: Controller, Innovator, Thinker, and Supporter. Here’s a quick reference table that tells you how to adjust your style to reach each of these types effectively.
How They Listen
What They Need
|Controller||With one eye on the clock and a “what’s in it for me” attitude||Bottom line, just the facts, ability to make a quick decision|
|Innovator||In a dream world||Big picture, imaginative, descriptive, possibilities–not problems|
|Thinker||Carefully||Details, facts and figures, plenty of time|
|Supporter||With feelings||Personal touches, warmth, caring|
Connect with your eyes. Avoid looking around the room or being distracted by people coming and going or other movements. When you have a client or colleague in your office, focus solely on them. Don’t scan the newspaper, check your email, sort the papers on your desk, or doodle on your message pad.
Listen actively. In order to be heard and to influence others with what you say, you need to hear what they have to say. Whether you’re in a group or one-on-one, on the phone or in person, learn how to listen actively. This means focusing on what the other person is saying, not planning your next words.
Avoid distractions. Do you fidget while you’re talking—twist your ring, pull at your hair, jingle your keys, click your pen? Maybe you unconsciously talk with your hands or if you’ve been told that you fidget, you clasp your hands together and stay still as a stone. All of these habits interfere with positive, productive communication.
Lee Iacocca said, “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Become a dynamic speaker, an active listener, and there’s no telling where your ideas will take you.