You’ve got important stuff to say. Maybe you’ve spent ages preparing your talk and your slides. But how can you make them listen? What needs to happen for them to pay attention?

The answer is: a switch of focus. Your focus.

Instead of focusing on what you want to say, start by paying attention to the other person.

Listen well. Ask non-judgemental questions like the 2 Lazy Jedi Questions:

  • What kind of X?
  • Is there anything else about X?

By doing this, you get to hear the words that they use, and can mirror them back. Plus, you get to find out what the other person would like and what’s important to them.

“It all starts with the universally applicable premise that people want to be understood and accepted. Listening is the cheapest, yet most effective concession we can make to get there.” Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

As you continue to pay attention, you can guide the person’s attention. You might do that to find out specific information, or to adjust their emotional state – to make them feel better or worse. The simplest way to do that is with your questions.

Think for a moment: what happens when you are asked a question? Even in a book, where you can’t reply, a question guides your attention to the answer that you would have given. It focuses your attention.

In the same way, when you ask a question, you guide a person’s attention quite directly. That is a powerful act of influence, because where attention goes, energy flows. The person’s emotional state follows their attention: for example, ask them about happy experiences and they’ll usually feel happier.

When you’ve done lots of paying attention and guiding attention, then its time to speak up. You’re in a position to fine-tune what you say to match what the other person is looking for. Then, you can pay more attention to notice, live and in the moment, how what you are saying is being received… before guiding attention once again.

That’s the Collaborative Influence Cycle.

 

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