Becoming a People Whisperer — How to Talk So People Listen and Listen So People Talk
With all the discussion of chatbots, AI, and intelligent personal assistants lately, you might start to think that human to human (H2H) communication is disappearing altogether. But the fact is the need for interpersonal communication isn’t going anywhere. In its 2016 Future of Jobs report, the World Economic Forum observed that as more physical and computation tasks shift to machines, the demand for soft skills that machines can’t master will increase.
Of course, it can be tough to predict exactly what the future will bring for each of us personally and professionally. But whether you are an entrepreneur, small-business owner, or business professional, knowing how to talk so people will listen and listen so people will talk will always serve you well.
So how can you leverage your humanness to connect and communicate with business partners, staff, and associates? You can become a people whisperer. Communication is both an art and a science. What you say to others is a creative expression of your thoughts and ideas. But the way you say it and the response it elicits is often guided by our natural human instincts.
Secrets to Becoming a People Whisperer
To better explain what I mean, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips with you. By making these small adjustments in how you approach conversations — whether to a large crowd or an audience of one — you can communicate more effectively and build stronger relationships with the people around you.
1. Use pronouns that invite engagement.
Human beings are predisposed to talk about themselves. What scientists refer to as self-disclosure actually triggers the reward centers in the brain. Because of this predisposition, it can be very easy for us to fall into the “I” and “me” trap when having a conversation. However, speaking to someone using inclusive language that addresses them personally increases the chances that they will respond positively to what you have to say. So choose pronouns that invite engagement and express your desire to collaborate with your audience. And if you know someone’s name, use it. Most people appreciate being recognized.
Tip: Addressing an audience using “you” makes each person feel as if you are speaking directly to them. While using “we” builds a sense of community and shared interest.
2. Communicate with your whole body.
Did you know that there is an entire field of study dedicated to interpreting the meaning of your body position? Social scientists call the study proxemics. Robotics developers even apply human proxemics theories to teach robots how to behave more like humans. If you think about it, you are probably already aware of some of the information scientists have gained. Consider body orientation for instance. If you face someone squarely, with your shoulders parallel to theirs, the two of you are most likely having a private conversation. If the two of you want to open the conversation to others, both of you will face slightly away from each other, creating an opening. When you are speaking to a group or an individual, you can use this knowledge of proxemics to communicate your interest in them.
Tip: If you are making a presentation from a stage, don’t just face straight forward during your entire speech. Think about how a rock star performs and remember to sing a few songs to the people in the wings.
3. Recognize and respond to your audience’s style.
Most people identify with one of four main communication styles. As Toreja Ćurić of PageGroup explains, these styles are called the driver, the analytical, the expressive, and the amiable. While everyone uses a mix of styles to communicate, most of us favor one over another. Most of us also find it easiest to communicate with someone who has a style similar to our own. To make your communications more appealing, I recommend that you learn about each of the styles. Then, when you are speaking with someone whose style is different than you own, adjust your message to match their style instead of your own.
Tip: Consider your audience’s point of view when framing your message. For some individuals, an emotional component is essential while others may prefer just the facts.
Are you ready to give people whispering a try? With just slight adjustments in the way you approach others, you communicate that you are engaged and interested in them and what they have to say. You can form real, human connections with clients, co-workers and new prospects. Robots may be able to perform amazing feats, but they can’t replace the magic that happens when real people get together to communicate or solve a problem.
(This post first appeared on American Express Open Forum)
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Kit Pang is a Communication Expert, TEDx Speaker Coach, TEDx, Inbound and Keynote speaker and the founder of BostonSpeaks. He is on a mission to help individuals become exceptional speakers and communicators. Kit’s seminars and talks have been credited as super fun, engaging, soul-searching and insightful. www.bostonspeaks.com | @KitPangx, @Boston_Speaks