Telling vs Presenting

Geoffrey X Lane

Listening to in order to understand…

Most people listen so that they can respond. I believe that by listening to understand and asking questions will get help you get the results you want by helping others.

That truth was deeply reinforced in my heart while attending a recent meeting of young corporate business leaders and owners. Before the meeting, we had the opportunity to individually network, and had another opportunity during the meeting to describe to everyone what we do, the elevator pitch/speech.

There was a lot of ‘nervous energy’ and ‘anxiety energy’ flowing when people started talking about what they do …trying to put themselves in the best light possible and persuading others to look at their services.

We all want to make a good first impression, but ‘TELLING & SELLING’ ourselves to as many people as possible in networking environments can actually produces the opposite effect. With everyone competing for ‘air space’, and wanting to get their ‘say’ in, most people tune out!

There is a saying I use in my workshop, which goes like this:

  • When I focus on ME I INCREASE MY ANXIETY

This ties in with the simple wisdom of “listening to understand”.

How? Don’t talk about you or your product and get the results you want! Here’s how the principle worked for me. Upon introducing myself, I simply asked, “Can I ask what you do?” Listening intently to the response, I then asked more questions, most of them based on the answers I got. (In fact, I listened so hard to one person’s avalanche of features about their service; it felt as if my ears hurt!)

I also asked other questions like…

  • “So how are sales?”
  • “Do you enjoy presenting?”
  • “What do you like about speaking?”
  • “Is there anything you don’t like about public speaking?”
  • “Have you ever found something that could turn that around?”
  • “How did that work out?”
  • “What sort of communication challenges do you face?”
  • “Do you have sales people working for you and presenting your…?”
  • “How are they working out?”

After listening and responding I moved on to the next “listening opportunity”, and the next, and the next. Only ONCE did anyone ask me what I did! Did I mind? Not in the slightest! Why is this? After all, isn’t the objective to inform everyone about my business?

Not for me …and here’s why. Among other things:

  • Asking questions extinguishes the energy of anxiety
  • Asking questions gets relevant information
  • Asking questions qualifies people (consciously for me and subconsciously for them)
  • Asking questions involves people
  • Asking questions creates value in what we represent and us.
  • Asking questions is like sowing and planting seeds

I also knew I had another opportunity to address the group as one!

At the end of the meeting, after I described what I do during my ’20 seconds’ in front of the group, my listening seeds bore a rich and fruitful harvest! Many people approached me looking for help.

Why? Because I phrased what I do, to what I heard people wanted, and it had personal meaning to them. They connected what I do with their own answers and challenges they had revealed to my earlier questions, which had been sitting sub-consciously in their minds!

And remember the person who hurt my ears? I’ve been asked to train his sales people! Why? Because he felt he was, heard and understood. He also internally knew that all the “TELLING – INSTEAD OF COMMUNICATING” he was doing was not really effective, and felt he had found the solution he was looking for.

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