Competence is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in several of my books: Straight Talk for Success; Your Success GPS; and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success. If you want to succeed you need to develop four basic, but important competencies: 1) creating positive personal impact; 2) becoming a consistently high performer; 3) dynamic communication skills; and 4) becoming interpersonally competent.
Dynamic communicators write well, present clearly and are great conversationalists. In this post I will deal with conversation skills.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Dale Carnegie.
“When we are dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are creatures of emotion, creature bustling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.”
This quote reminded me of one of the things my very good friend Steve Roesler always reminds his presentation skills training audiences: tune into WII FM. WII FM is not the hottest new rock radio station. It’s a question. It stands for “What’s In It For Me? In his presentation skills training workshops, Steve always tells his students to ask themselves, “What’s in it for the audience? Why should they spend their valuable time listening to you?” If you can answer these questions, you should be able to develop a dynamite talk.
However, I think it always makes sense to ask the WII FM question when you are engaged in a conversation. As Dale Carnegie points out most people are “motivated by pride and vanity;” – strong words to be sure, but probably as valid today as when he wrote them years ago. If this is the case, it makes sense to appeal to the other person’s pride and vanity when you enter into a conversation.
Becoming genuinely interested in another person is the best way to appeal to his or her pride and vanity. Asking questions, really listening to the answers and responding appropriately are the three keys to showing another person that you are interested in him or her. And, as I’ve said, being genuinely interested in another person is the best way to appeal to his or her pride and vanity.
I was speaking with a coaching client the other day. She called to tell me that she had accepted a Vice President position with a very large health care company. I congratulated her and we chatted for a while about her new job. As we were ending the conversation, she asked about me and how I am doing.
As it turns out, I had quite a bit on my mind that day. My mother passed away earlier this year. My dad is not in the best of health. I didn’t even realize how much I needed to talk about this until she asked. Her question was cathartic. We spent 20 more minutes discussing my parents, her deceased mother and family dynamics in general.
My client is a good conversationalist. Even though she was calling with good news of her own, she took the time to tune into me before ending our conversation. I try to make it a rule to ask at least one or two questions of the other person when I am in a conversation. In this way, I make sure that I am holding up my end of the conversation. Just like my client, I do this even when the purpose of the conversation is to give the other person some information.
The common sense point here is simple. Good communicators are good conversationalists. They write well, and they present well. Good conversationalists ask a lot of questions, really listen to what the other person has to say and then respond appropriately. They tune into radio station WII FM and figure out what’s important to the other person in the conversation. If you do these four things you’ll be tuning into what’s in it for the other person. And, you’ll become known as a great conversationalist.
That’s my take on conversation skills and success. What’s yours? Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us. As always, thanks for reading.