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How to Get People to Listen to You: 10 Steps to Effective Communication by @eMakeitHappen

Business woman standing with her staff in backgroundby Emily Worden | Featured Contributor

Many experts agree that high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more indicative of success than Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Why? Because people who are emotionally intelligent are great communicators. Great communicators make great leaders because they’re considered charming and charismatic. You can increase EQ and communication skills pretty easily; read on to learn how.

1) Listen: Great communication starts with great listening. Try to be an active listener; fully engage yourself with the conversation. Avoid distractions and maintain eye contact. Don’t interrupt and pause before replying. Stop worrying about what you’re going to say next, just think about what is being said to you. When the speaker is done, paraphrase the message back to prove you’re listening. People really appreciate this gesture and it makes them more engaged in the conversation.

2) Get physical: Listen with your body as well as your ears. Turn your torso, feet, and shoulders toward the speaker and lean forward. Keep arms uncrossed and hands free. Make active eye contact – flick them back and forth instead of staring straight ahead. Nod your head in agreement and say, “I see”, “I agree”, and “Uh-huh, yes.” Pay attention to the other person’s body language too. Do they seem agitated? If so, steer the conversation to another topic.

3) Use names: People love to hear their own name – drop it in conversation to snap them back to attention. This small gesture makes people feel special too. Not only that, it makes them more receptive to requests: “Shelley, I could really use your help.” Try using names in email subject lines, “Tim, your opinion please on this report” – I guarantee your message will be open first. It’s especially effective when used at the end of a conversation: “It was talking with you, Dan.”

4) Appreciate, Approve, and Admire: “Babies cry for it, men die for it.” I’m talking about approval, and we all want it. Think about the last time you were driving and let someone cut in front of you and they didn’t wave thank you. They didn’t even acknowledge you. Ooh, didn’t you get a little steamed? I know I do.

Any form of acknowledgement or approval is powerful. Just a simple smile and “thank you” goes a long way in boosting self esteem. Tell someone they did a great job and they’ll work even harder next time. Encourage, acknowledge, and recognize and you’ll not only bring out the best in people, but they’ll appreciate you for it.

5) Keep the conversation relevant to them: Ask questions to keep it moving and keep others engaged: “I like to travel. Where do you like to visit?” Ask for opinions too; people love the question “What do you think?” Asking questions not only keeps others engaged, but keeps you in control of the conversation. Whatever you do, keep the conversation relevant to the recipient. Great salespeople know how to take anything and relate it back to their subject.

6) Repeat: The first time you talk, the other person likely isn’t listening or giving you their full attention. Even if you do have someone’s full attention, they could have barriers to listening, especially if you’re saying something new or controversial. Repetition helps your message be heard and nails the point home. Repetition makes things easy to understand and creates a clear purpose.

7) K.I.S.S.: It’s a common phrase meaning Keep it Simple, Stupid. Be clear and straightforward. Avoid long sentences and big words. Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it enough.” Don’t overcomplicate things just for the sake of showing off. Use small words in efficient ways for maximum impact.

8) Pause: People are only half-listening when you talk; the other half is thinking about what they’re going to say next. When you say something important, take a pause. It snaps people back to the conversation and allows time for whatever you’re saying to sink in. People remember most what they heard last – save your most important point for the end.

9) “Because”: This simple little word is so effective. People want a reason for everything, we’re always looking for cause and effect. “Because” solves the problem for us. “May I cut in line because I’m in rush” is a lot more effective than “May I cut in line.” “Because” doesn’t have to precede a good reason either, just a somewhat rational one.

10) Tell stories: Stories are emotional, memorable, and powerful. They connect people; everyone loves a good storyteller. The best storytellers engage the five senses too. They help people imagine “being there.” Likewise, the best salespeople use the five senses to help customers imagine already using a product.

Great communication takes practice. Focus on improving one of these skills a week and you’ll be a master in no time.

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Emily Worden – Entrepreneur, Business Strategist, Impossible Optimist – Cambridge, MA

headshot1sheownsitEmily Worden is a Boston-based entrepreneur, consultant, and writer. She started her custom handbag business eThreads.com in 2006 while pursuing an MBA and working 3 jobs. After a particularly awful shift at her weekend catering gig, Emily threw down the apron and said, “Screw it, I’m going to do something I love!” She graduated in 2008 and quit everything to pursue eThreads full time. Emily started the cat lifestyle business Ferocious Friends in 2012 with her husband Case to satisfy the needs of their cats Lulu, Smoke and every feline around. She started her consulting business emilyworden.com in 2013 to assist other businesses with persuasive writing, strategic vision, and customer satisfaction.

Emily is an avid DIYer and loves making things with her hands. Her happy place is the library where she walks once a week; she’s always excited to learn something new. Her extra happy place is a great view of sunset with music pumping in her ears. Emily is grateful everyday for following her dreams and hopes to inspire others to do the same.

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2 Replies to “How to Get People to Listen to You: 10 Steps to Effective Communication by @eMakeitHappen”

  1. Amanda Hoffman

    Really enjoyed this article and the practical 10 points you shared. The power of a story should never be underestimated, its a neglected option that many small business owners forget about. Thank you for taking the time to write this Emily.

    1. Emily Worden[ Post Author ]

      Hi Amanda, I’m glad you enjoyed it! You’re so right about storytelling – it’s REALLY important as a communications and sales too.

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