You may know that I am the creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile™. It’s a psychometric assessment tool that reports on your persuasive strengths and weaknesses at work. Assess yourself here.
One of the approaches you can use when persuading others is called The Connector. The Connector seeks to influence by establishing a strong emotional connection with their stakeholder. If this is something you’d like to get very good at then there are a whole lot of things you can do to connect. One of them is Active Listening.
Although listening is one of the most important skills you can learn, most of us think we are already pretty good at it. There’s a big difference between simple listening and listening actively.
What is Active listening?
Active listening is where you hear everything the person is saying, and also much of what they are not saying by paying close attention to their words, their tone and their body language. Active listening is where you are so focused that you can’t be distracted by anything going on around you. There’s a quote by Epictetus the Greek Stoic philosopher, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” What a great tip if rapport is what you’re trying to build!
Here are my top tips for active listening:
· Pay attention. Be present and don’t lose focus on what the person is saying. Tune out anything else that is happening around you.
· Don’t plan what you’re going to say next. It’s really important that you don’t plan your rebuttal or form your counter argument while the other person is still speaking.
· Nod your head. Nodding your head in agreement while the other person is talking shows that you are listening to what they are saying and agreeing with them. You don’t want to overdo this because being too vigorous with your nod might cause your stakeholder to feel you’re trying too hard and not really listening or agreeing at all.
· Verbal affirmations. In 2013 the phonetics researcher Mattias Heldner conducted a study to see whether it was helpful to make listening sounds in a conversation. It was shown that it is a good idea to make the odd little sounds to tell the other person that you are with them, and they can keep talking. Heldner reported, “We use the sounds to show that we are listening and that the message from the person we are talking to is getting across. It creates a common ground within the conversation.” The suggested sounds are, “mmm”, “mhm” or “uh-huh”. May I suggest that you can also use full words such as, “yes”, “I agree”, “Oh no!” You get the picture! Heldner did warn that you want to be careful you don’t overuse this as a technique. If you make these sounds too often you can come across as sarcastic or as though you are pretending to listen. I teach the following: a technique exposed is a technique lost. In other words, be careful. If the person realises you are using a technique on purpose to influence them, and that it’s not your natural behaviour it could be a turn off and break rapport.
· Express. Let your face do the talking! This means that your face should show the appropriate emotions from one moment to the next in the conversation. Are they sad? Be sorry. Are they happy? Join them.
· Be open. Make sure your posture is open and facing towards your stakeholder. Your open posture suggests you have an interest in what they are saying. When you turn away or close your posture down it suggests you are disinterested, uncomfortable or bored.
· Repeat the key messages. Use expressions like, “yes I agree that (insert what they said)”. Or “What I’m hearing you say is (insert a summary of what they said).”
· Don’t interrupt. Yes, you know this! It’s rude to interrupt. Interrupting says you think your point is more important that theirs. It can also suggest that you want them to hurry up because you are not interested in giving them your time. To stop yourself interrupting it’s a good idea to try and form a picture or a graphic in your mind that summarises what the person means while they are talking. Another tip to stop you interrupting is to imagine the emotion that the person is feeling as they go through their various ideas with you
· Pause. Wait for people to pause for a millisecond before you add what you think. If you do this, you don’t appear to be jumping in with your thoughts too soon. It shows respect for what the person has just said.
Most of these ideas are common sense and we already know them. The question is, if we already know this then why are we not perfect at it? Perhaps make a plan to really focus on these suggestions over the coming months if connecting with people is a priority for you.
© Michelle Bowden 2021. Michelle Bowden is an authority on presentation & persuasion in business. Michelle is a CSP (the highest designation for speakers in the world), Creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile™ (a world-first psychometric indicator that tests your persuasiveness at work), best-selling internationally published author (Wiley), and a regular commentator in print, radio and online media. www.michellebowden.com.au