Years ago, I sold software for a living. Before that, I sold electronics components. It seems as if learning how to sell was the most important skill I ever acquired. I studied sales in 1983 by enrolling in The Dale Carnegie Sales Program. It changed my life and my fortunes. Learning how to sell was my gateway.
Yet this post is not about selling, it’s about having an unfair advantage in almost all your personal dealings. It’s only unfair because very few people have really understood this process before and it’s helped me to really understand the people in my life.
I am about to tell you the best possible way anyone can convey to another human being why their product or company is worth attention. I want to explain how I came to understand communication at a deeper level than I ever had before.
These two messaging paradigms can change a reluctant prospect, investor or potential client into a lifelong client, customer, and friend.
This is the most important strategy I’ve ever discovered for reaching deep inside another person’s thinking. If you do need this or feel as if you can be better at it, then you – more than anyone – need to hear this and make it part of how you interact with the humans in your life.
Would you like to know what that is?
The Pieces of The Puzzle.
The first part is subtle, some people are so naturally good at this they don’t even realize they are doing it. It’s the power of empathy that leads to affinity.
It sounds so simple, to some, it seems like a waste of time. I had one client recently call that “the warm and fuzzies” and he was not convinced it had any relevance at all. Being focused on “the facts” was his way of communicating, yet beyond his curt, intellectual approach he is a deeply warm and insightful individual. Even in his own book, where his humanity shines through, he didn’t quite see it himself.
The Goal is to Bond.
People bond with others by finding…. no SEEKING those parts of the other where they share common realities. When people meet for the 1st time in social situations, one of the 1st questions asked of each other is “So… Where are you located?” or “What do you do?”
If you are both familiar with the same topic or subject then a deeper level of reality is then sought. Typical topics might be around favorite restaurants or sports. “How about those Red Sox!” would be a common “reality” question. We are seeking a way to find things in common with others. For so many of us this is natural but for some, it’s not.
New, inexperienced salespeople want to talk product. They want to make sure you know they know their stuff. Experienced professionals are people focused. The Japanese are famous for their “getting to know you” approach. Some Americans are frustrated by having to wait for this process to complete so they can get down to business. Yet it’s the most important part of the process.
We must establish a common reality before we can successfully communicate with our fellow man.
Focus on Them, NOT You.
Look, This is Dale Carnegie 101. We are justifiably the most important person in our lives. Yet, how wonderful is it when others take a sincere interest in us? I don’t mean someone who wants to sell you something, I mean a genuine person of value who has gifts to offer.
You have gifts to offer; your humor and intellect, your skill and abilities, your life experience and wisdom. Who in their right mind would turn away from that? In fact, being your friend and knowing you might be the most beautiful gift you can give to another human being. And if given, it will come back in spades.
To make this point as clear as possible, find a common reality with another human being & start to bond before trying to establish a relationship.
The Most Important Part.
This is where empathy comes in, it’s you understanding the human being you are talking to. You can try and fake this but it won’t work. You REALLY have to be interested in her to make that connection. Virtually EVERY person I have met has something to offer me in terms of a human experience and knowing this I become… OPEN.
Being open allows for my humanity to shine through. And it enables another to do the same. Here’s an example, maybe you’ve been in a situation like this yourself.
Standing Naked in Front of the Room.
Recently, at a business mastermind, I was asked to share some things about myself. Everyone in the room is certified expert in their field, most charging in the neighborhood of $20,000 a day for their time. Egos were inflated to the size of small foreign automobiles and I was in the same mode myself.
Yet an amazing thing happened. We all began to share our deepest intimate secrets about our lives. The actual truth was that everyone in that room had failed miserably in almost every aspect of life at one time or another yet fought back relentlessly to become the success they are.
The facades melted, the ego balloons popped and all of a sudden, we were just a bunch of humans, each with problems, skills, and abilities anxious to help one another with anything required of us. Why?
Because we saw the humanity in each other; the shared reality of being successful, being human and living an imperfect life. And we did it by having empathy, which through a shared reality built affinity.
The Reality Had To Come First, The Affinity Second.
Without the reality, why would I like you?
Yes, you have a nice shirt on or possibly I know you are smart but why should I like you and more importantly, I don’t care about you either. But share reality with another and once you locate what is common between you, the bonding process begins.
Finally! We Can Communicate!
The art of listening carefully and “receiving” the message another is sending is taken for granted. “I hear ya” is one of my favorite phrases but does the other person feel as if I did? Maybe not.
Let’s watch as two people communicate and see what I mean:
P1: “My network router runs at twice the speed of the ones you have in your data center”
P2: “Interesting. But did you know our data center was built on a sacred burial ground?”
P1: “I hear ya. But if you change routers you can also save on bandwidth expense?
P2: “No, but we think that ghosts are reading the CEO’s emails. At least he thinks so!”
Person 1 is sending but Person 2 is not receiving. Is this how you WANT to communicate? I am going to assume you don’t, yet so many of us do. You have to make sure your message is received. Let’s check in again on our two persons communicating.
P2 – “I am honestly not sure, I didn’t even realize we had routers in the data center, but we do have ghosts.”
P1 – “Really? Ghosts? That’s crazy. How can you be sure it’s not just flakey router hardware?”
P2 – “Because my CEO says the ghosts read his email. Maybe you should tell her about your new routers.”
P1 – I think I can show your CEO how those new routers, being more reliable will prevent glitches in the system, maybe those are your ghosts. What do you think?”
Notice now that your message is received and that you had the intention of having your message reach another AND the attention of the other hearing the message.
With that, communication is really taking place.
By watching for those communication cues, you can tell if you are really getting heard.
By the way, if you are SKIMMING THIS and think it’s too basic or even silly to spend time on this skill, then you are the one it’s written for. I find that great communicators are interested in how communication takes place. Please argue with me, send me nasty notes and emails, tell me I am wrong ENGAGE me in communication and I will know I reached you.
Start with Reality, Build Affinity and Empathy, then Communicate with Intention. Do this and watch what happens. I know it’s simple, I realize it’s even obvious and to some intuitive… but it’s not.
It took 1/2 a lifetime to learn and perfect, I am still working on it every day.
The simplest way to practice is to ask yourself as you talk; “Am I being heard?” and evaluate if you are. Then, when you’ve started to notice if people are really hearing you, focus next on “Am I really listening?” If you do this, you will see all those times you think you are but aren’t.
After a few tries, it all becomes natural and you will find yourself bonding with others so much faster!
Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong, pick a fight, start an argument!