Many years ago I was taught that, upon entering any conversation, I had to have a clear intention for what outcome I wanted as a result. I needed to enter the conversation knowing that I wanted that person to enroll in my program or send me referrals or those things were “never going to happen” as a result of me talking with that person.
And I know many, many successful business people who have done just that and their success can be directly attributed to that “skill” of setting that intention before their first word is spoken, and then manoeuvring the conversation towards their desired outcome.
I admire that skill.
I just don’t have it myself.
And because I was told that I “had to do it that way or nothing good would come of any conversation” I simply began to avoid having conversations with anyone about what I do.
Instead I started asking people what they do.
And how they do it.
And people started telling me things. Things that their therapist likely didn’t even know!
Conversations that began with “Tell me more about what you do” morphed into “And then we divorced after 15 years of marriage — my heart was broken — but here I am today, all the stronger for it!”
And I would listen. And nod. And ask questions that were relevant not because I was manoeuvring the conversation, but because I was genuinely interested! People are quite fascinating after all!
And I would learn. About them. And who they are. What makes them tick. What ticks them off. What motivates them. What brings them down. Why they do things the way that they do. And what works for them. And what doesn’t.
I did this because this is what I knew how to do. This is who I am by nature. And an entire career of having conversations that always began with “How can I help?” futher cemented this way of talking into my brain and my psyche. I honestly don’t know how to “do” conversation any other way!
And to my delight, this is what I have discovered:
People genuinely enjoy talking about themselves and sharing their stories. And when they have a captive audience, it makes them feel good. And when they feel good about the experience that they’ve shared with the person who is listening to their story, they will always find a way to support that person.
The person to whom you have listened (genuinely…because you really do want to learn about them and their experiences!), may become your client. They may fix your car. They may send you referrals.They may get your kid to babysit for their kids. They may put your name forward to be a speaker at their next symposium. They may buy you lunch, or drop off some muffins to your office. They may grin and wave when you enter the room at a conference you are both attending.
The possibilities of what may happen are endless! And each and every possibility is wonderful and exciting in its own way!
So you see, for me, I always think that if I were to enter a conversation with one goal in mind for what that conversation would yield, it is true that I may achieve that goal and my desired outcome would be met. But what about the myriad of other possibilities I had not even dared to imagine?
Is it possible that by setting one goal, having one desired result, I stand to lose the plethora of other opportunities that may arise?
It’s quite likely that your response to that depends on your beliefs about the Universe and how “it works,” about what you believe to be true about probabilities and fate and destiny and the like.
But here’s how I see it: I am happier having the types of conversations that I am having. I just quite simply like ’em better. There is a greater resonance with Who I Am in the sort of conversations that I have, and quite likely that is precisely why this “method” works so beautifully for me.
Knowing Who We Are impacts so much of what we do in our business, and ensuring that every aspect of what we do and how we do it lines up with that is, in my opinion, the key to success. And the art of conversation is no exception.
So if you’ve been finding that the conversations you are having are simply not delivering the results you had hoped for, take some time to ponder if the WAY in which you are approaching them matches with Who You Are. Does it feel good to have conversations the way that you are having them? Does it make you grin and smile in anticipation of each one? Or do you dread meeting people for coffee or having “sales” conversations?
Chances are, if there’s any element of dread involved, or any feelings of “I just don’t want to,” then something isn’t quite right with your approach and it may be time to try a new way. And I hope you’ll share your process with me — maybe over tea one day — because, as you’ve likely noted, I would love to hear your story!
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Rebecca Liston helps her clients predict, pivot, and compete in an increasingly complex global marketplace. Her clients quickly uncover the root of their challenges and know the actions to take to overcome them. A six-time nominee for the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Award, Rebecca combines business strategy with intuition, giving her clients the edge on forward-thinking, elegant answers to their most complicated problems. Her clients are entrepreneurs with CEO-mindsets and executives with entrepreneurial instincts. She is based in London, Ontario. What if you could get the answer to your biggest business challenge, in one sitting? Visit rebeccaliston.com to find out more.