January 16, 2018

Drop everything?

Four business people in a discussionWe need to get people’s attention from time to time…

We may well need them to accommodate what we need done, or what they need to do to give effect to what we’re offering them.

If we expect them to drop everything though, it probably isn’t going to happen.

I’ve made the mistake several times of agreeing to buy a service or product that’s been offered to me unsolicited and then found that I don’t have the capacity to follow through on the implementation.

So in change and growth, to drop everything isn’t a realistic option, and we’ll do better if we set the pace accordingly (and choose people who recognise that).

Less is sometimes more, especially in the long haul.

Why relationship skills?

Networking groupSometimes it’s worth reminding ourselves of our reasons for doing something.


Why focus on relationship skills, whether in a professional or a personal context?

After all, talking about the subject can seem a bit “preachy” if we’re not careful.

But there is a whole other way of looking at this…

Relating to other people is, at times, one of the most demanding and yet potentially enriching things we do. Doing a better job of that can unlock all sorts of benefits. It’s where the leverage is.

So the subject seems worthy of a little attention and focus—perhaps more than a little.

And perhaps a systematic approach.

There’s a bit more to this than communication skills: Getting one’s point across in the moment isn’t the same as successfully managing a relationship over time, which requires a little more sophistication.

I think so anyway. Don’t you?

In making plans for work…

Sir Winston Churchill…it is sometimes necessary to take into account the actions of other people.

It was a week of Winston Churchill quotes last week, though not, in fact, this one: “In making plans for war, it is sometimes necessary to take into account the actions of the enemy.”

So what do you do to get your own work done and still be available to other people?

(Not that they’re “the enemy,” of course.)

Just when you think you found a new quiet spot, they’ll seek you out. Family too.

They want your attention after all, and you’ve cultivated that really.

So how do you make them content and self-sufficient before taking off on your own?

What’s the reassurance they need?

When someone isn’t taking in what you’re saying, what do you do?

Three senior managersPicture this…

The tone of voice changes: The “uh-uh”s and “yes”s are still there, but they have a hollow sound to them. The nods of the head are automatic. The gaze is no longer intent.

He’s gone.

I keep talking a little longer and finish a sentence or two to be polite, but I know the words aren’t going anywhere. I know he’s thinking about something else.

I’ve lost the man’s attention. Actually, he gives off rather clear signals that I have. If he realized just how clearly, he probably would do something about it. But he’s not that conscious of his non-verbal communication.

Of course, the thing is what should I do, or what should you do if you find yourself in this position, where the person you’re speaking with isn’t focused on what you’re saying any more?

Well, I think there’s only one answer…

Get the other guy talking. That’s what he wants to do. Anything else is pointless. Your stuff will have to wait (though maybe you’ll be able to get the other person to say what needs to be said by asking smart questions).

Bottom line: If you’ve lost their attention, give them the ball.

What about you?

What do you do when you realize someone has zoned out of what you’re saying?

Oh, and…

How aware are you of the signals you may be giving off that you’re not actually paying attention?

More detail on how much happens unconsciously in our relationships, and some smart questions to ask, in my book, available here http://amzn.to/ouLZgs (US) or http://amzn.to/vAaZMl (UK).

Or ask me to speak at your event or guest on your program.

What do you do with someone who talks about themselves all the time?

Do you have this problem?  You find that certain people just talk about themselves all the time.  You’re happy to listen and attend to them a lot, even much more than half the time when you’re together, but there are occasions when you’d like them to pay attention to you.  What should you do?

I’m often asked about this in the talks I give about my book and the ‘system for people’ it describes.  Clients, colleagues, family and friends ask about it too.  The prompt is usually when I say that one of the biggest things I learned was that to get what we want, we need to help other people get what they want first.

There are lots of way to interrupt the pattern.  Two to highlight are:

Just ask for your turn.  You can say something like: ‘It’s been very interesting hearing about your abc.  Now I’d like to tell you about xyz, because I’d like your help / opinion etc.’  Use ‘because’ to give a reason – a powerful word.

Here’s a more subtle method…

Reward the other person for the behaviour you want them to adopt, even if you haven’t seen them do it yet.  Choose your moment and say something like ‘I really like it when you listen so carefully to what I have to say and give me your opinion about it’, even when they’ve never done that.  You’d think they’d just ignore it or be confused, wouldn’t you, but it’s amazing how they start doing the behaviour you want.  They’re hardly going to say ‘Oh no. I haven’t actually done the thing you’re praising me for.’

It’s a great approach for getting all sorts of things to happen.  Show the other person what’s it going to be like when they do the thing you want them to do.  Then they’ll do more of it.

Having said all that, it’s worth pausing to ask ourselves when and where we go on about our own stuff.  If we notice the behaviour in others, chances are good we do it too.