As manager or business owner do you often find it difficult to gain trust or information to make your job easier? Effective business conversations result from one mindset and 3 fundamental rules. Without these, the conversation will never have a chance to be effective however hard you try; whatever “tricks” you add. Nelson Mandela was known for his “effective conversations” skills.
One-way conversations always fail
One-way conversations are all about you. This is probably because, consciously or subconsciously, it’s all about you, as you have the position of power. You drive what you want to say from your perspective.
Unfortunately, such conversations cause instant ‘I’ strain: “I did this, I did that”. Can you imagine being on the end of such a one-way conversation? We all hate feeling that we do not matter to the speaker. What a huge turn-off! When you are not putting yourself in the shoes on your conversation partner(s), when you are not looking at the conversation from their perspective(s), you are doing no one a favour, even yourself! It is simply impossible to build rapport in a one-way conversation.
Start with the right mindset
The former first black president of South Africa Nelson Mandela, had a reputation for making the person with whom he was talking feel like the most important person in the world. He could put himself in his listeners’ shoes and think about what they wanted to say and hear, whilst retaining clarity on his own objectives.
That is the foundation of effective business conversations too. It sets the scene for trust, open dialogue and engaging in working together towards win-win outcomes.
Applying The 3 Golden Rules Of Conversation
Despite over 27 years in prison, he was pivotal in ending Apartheid by, amongst over things, applying a particular skill: Using the three golden rules of conversation. As managers we can learn much from Mandela’s technique as he was able to “get the most” out of the conversations which benefited his goals and enhanced his position. That is what effective business conversations are about.
Rule 1: LISTEN with intent
He looked people in the eye, nodded in understanding and showed empathy.
His body language matched his words. He was demonstrating authentic interest in the person with whom he was talking
Rule 2: DON’T DOMINATE the conversation – it’s not a team sport
He always listened more than he talked, putting the person at ease. After all, we have two ears but only one mouth. He never dominated a conversation, at least publicly.
Maintaining that balance is crucial to building up trust and engagement. All too often we start with good intentions and let the conversation “derail” from dialogue to monologue.
Rule 3: ASK questions about the other person, rather than speaking about yourself
You don’t learn anything by talking about yourself. Mandela was able to ascertain what his adversaries and friend’s positions were. He did that by asking relevant open questions. Such questions give the other person the opportunity to express their feelings, reasons… This process generates both useful information and greater willingness to engage.
Asking the right questions, listening to the answers with intent and not dominating the conversation enhanced his own goals.
Making Sure You Understand Fully Your Audience Perspective
Importantly, superficial answers are not enough. A great way to get amazing amounts of information and learn much is to apply the “Six Serving Men” approach. It is based on Rudyard Kipling’s poem
I keep six honest serving men (they taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How And Where and Who.
You can keep a conversation going almost indefinitely by using what, why, when, how, where and who.
And you can explore positive and negative perspectives equally, which adds to trust. This technique allows you to always have effective business conversations.
Effective Business Advice Starts With Effective Business Conversations
Like Mandela, good consultants apply the three golden rules of conversation and Kipling’s what, why, when, how, where and who when working with their clients. They know how to ask the right questions, the right way at the right time. That enables them to provide unbiased effective support to strengthen the businesses of their clients and contribute to their success.
When you need to tackle some challenging business issues and would like to have an exploratory chat with a member of The Network Of Consulting Professionals get in touch!