Archive for February, 2013

Want to be More Interesting? Listen Up!

Monday, February 18th, 2013

When I was starting my business career, I asked a handful of people for their best advice on how to be successful. I got quite a few good answers, but one in particular stood out to me at the time and has served me well during all of the intervening years. It was contributed by one of my cousins who was a established businessman with a successful career of his own. His advice was: “Whether you are in a meeting, speaking with someone on a personal basis, or just hanging out at the airport waiting for a flight, listen! In fact, try to talk as little as you possibly can. It is always more important to listen.”

I wish I had put into practice every piece of advice I received all of those years ago, but it wouldn’t be true by a long shot. In fact, I don’t even remember most of it now. However, for some reason, that advice to listen more than you speak has always stuck with me. I’m not saying I always practiced it, but I did make an effort to remember it.

I took his advice to mean that if you went into every business conversation with the idea of listening carefully to others, they would very often tell you exactly what you needed to know in dealing with them. And that has proven to be very true. In fact, I’ve found that if you are patient, listen, and allow this process to unfold, the client, supplier or customer will usually tell you exactly what they want. All you have to do then is supply them with precisely what they told you they wanted. You’ve just become their ultimate problem solver! After doing this with a client, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard: “Thank you, it’s so difficult to get someone to listen to what I am asking them. So often the other person has a preconceived idea of what they are going to sell me, or provide for me, and it’s not what I really need at all. They just don’t listen.”

Then, a few years ago, I found another unexpected bonus when I practiced this technique. On a flight to Detroit, I was sitting next to a businessman who was intently staring out of the window when I sat down, but he soon turned my way. After introducing myself, I asked him about his business and sat back to listen. He proceeded to tell me virtually everything about his exciting career in multi-family real estate. At each brief pause, I asked him another, more probing question, and off he would go again, answering my questions in great detail and making this seem like the most exciting business field imaginable. Along the way, he also told me many details about his life, his marriage, his dreams, and even the story of his brief stint as the member of a rock and roll band!

As we gathered our belongings at the end of our flight, he turned to me and handed me his business card. “Call me when you get a chance,” he said, “You’re one of the most interesting people I’ve met in years!”

Did you catch the irony? I had hardly spoken a word the whole trip. I had just listened to him and he wound up thinking I was the interesting person! To bring this full circle, I did call him some days when I discovered that we didn’t live far from each other. We soon started a business/client relationship, then became business partners, and eventually became fast friends.

I’m so happy that someone took the time to share this wise piece of advice with me all those years ago. Today, I’m sharing it with you. I sincerely hope it has the same effect on your life, both business and personal, that it’s had on mine.

If you decide to give it a try, we’d all like to know the results. Won’t you take the time to share them with us here?

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