People prefer to think that they are smart. Most people also like to think that other people think that they are smart. Sometimes I can impress people more when I ask intelligent questions about what they have to say than saying anything.
People enjoy discussing things they like and people they like. People may even enjoy discussing things they do not like. People may also enjoy discussing people they do not like. Whether people enjoy the conversation depends on how much they agree with the conversation.
The best way I can know what people like is to listen to them.
I do not discuss some things. As a headhunter, I have found that applicants often talk too much about where they are interviewing. They are giving away information that competitors and recruiters can use. They are also discussing the confidential information of their perspective employers.
In giving career counseling to an executive, I told him to keep his interview activities to himself when meeting with hiring companies. I specifically told him that two of the companies with whom he had interviews were competitors and not to tell either about his interviews. Imagine my surprise when I learned that he had boasted to the president of one of the companies that he was also interviewing with the competition.
When the applying executive began to discuss the high level of interest of the competitor, the interview ended on that spot. In trying to impress the hiring president, the applicant blundered into boasting about things that were inflammatory and threatening to his potential employer.
When talking about other people, I find that it is often just better not to take part in the conversation. If I need to rail about how terrible another person might be, I often find that it is better just to vent on paper. One way to get things out of my system is to write a letter to the person who is making me angry. I can write everything I wish to say to the person. Then I mail the letter to myself. When I receive the letter, I usually find that I feel foolish to have been so upset in the first place.
Most people prefer a discussion to a lecture. Captivating speakers may spend time selecting their words. They may practice their timing. They may have become experts on their subject. They may research their material to check for accuracy. They carefully think about their audience and may add or remove material based on the audience.
I can apply these things to my speaking one on one. I prefer that people believe what I say. I prefer that people find the conversation interesting. I can also limit my comments to the things that are interesting to the listener.
I can pay attention to body language and facial expressions. People send signals when they are restless. They may not stand still. Their eyes may wander. When people are restless, I can do four things.
- I can just be quiet.
- I can ask them a question to draw their attention back to the conversation
- I can excuse myself and give the person space.
- If I know them well, I can ask them if they are okay.
To continue to speak without an awareness of a listener’s state of mind is pointless and could weaken my relationship. If the person is not listening to what I am saying, I do not gain anything from talking with the person. If I continue to talk when the person clearly prefers not to listen may even irritate the listener.
There are times when there is power in saying less. It is not the amount I speak, but when and why I speak. I can listen to let other people know I appreciate their intelligence. I can keep private information private. I can speak about things I know are correct. I can respect other people when I sense that I am wasting their time or making them uncomfortable.