Listen First and Never Stop Listening
Listening is the single-most important skill in professional and personal relationships. Ernest Hemingway said, “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” It’s sad, but true: Most people have their own agenda and are too busy talking (or waiting to talk) to listen to you. So here’s the paradox: If you, unlike most people, can truly listen with empathy, then people will like you–and eventually help you get what you want.
It’s perhaps another paradox, but it works: When you want something from someone, instead of asking for it, help that person get what he or she wants. If you don’t know what he or she wants, then simply ask, “How can I help you?” Since so many people are out to only help themselves, when you genuinely seek to help others succeed in their goals and dreams, you’ll stand out. And those people you genuinely help will in turn fight to help you succeed and give you everything you want. Help others first, without expecting anything–and the returns will be enormous.
Be Yourself: Authentic, Transparent, and Vulnerable
Oprah Winfrey stated, “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” Professionals, especially of an older generation, tend to have a tough time with authenticity and transparency in the workplace. People, especially men, tend to have a tough time being vulnerable, especially with people they don’t know well. Many also aren’t sure how much to reveal online, or at work, or to people they’ve just met. But, hard as these choices may be, authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability all breed trust. And when people trust you, they’ll do anything for you. Open up to people, and take a chance, and you’ll be rewarded.
Tell, Don’t Sell
As important as it is to listen and help others, in order to get what you want, eventually you’ve got to tell people what that is. But nobody wants to be sold to. So whether it’s a product, service, idea, or yourself that you’re trying to sell–give up on “selling.” Instead, focus on telling a great story–captivating your audience, bringing to life what the future will bring, and painting a great picture of what will happen if you get what you want. When you get good at storytelling, people want to be part of that story–and they want to help others become part of that story too.
Inject Passion Into Every Interaction
Passion is contagious, but so is lack of passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re talking about, why should someone else care? If you want something, you must be more excited and dedicated to it than anyone else. If you’re not passionate about it, maybe it’s not really that important to you. Not everyone is super high-energy and extraverted, though these qualities can help convey passion in many cases. Passion and energy alone put me through college with my first job. But ultimately, you don’t need to be bouncing off the walls to convince someone of something. You just need to reveal your true passion, in the way that’s genuine for you.
Surprise and Delight Others
You know how when you walk into a casino, there’s always a slot machine going off somewhere in the background, telling the world that another person just hit a jackpot? This is what social psychologists call variable rewards. You don’t know when you’re going to win; you just have enough positive experiences that you feel excited, even when you’re not winning. When you surprise and delight others, not only do you make them happy–you remind them that you’re the type of person who might surprise and delight them soon again. Some classic examples: bringing home flowers to your wife for “no reason”; telling a customer his order will arrive next week but then overnighting it; and now, tweeting to a random prospect that she’s won a free prize. If you go out of your way to make an experience with you special, especially when people least expect it, you will get huge results over time.
Use The Four Most Important Words in Business and Life
Say “I’m sorry” when you make a mistake and “thank you” as much as you can. These words are so simple, yet so often people overlook the importance of saying them. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone knows that. It’s not when you make a mistake that’s a problem; it’s when you make a mistake and are too proud or embarrassed to be vulnerable, fess up, and apologize. Just say “I’m sorry” and let another person forgive you, so you can move on, and eventually get what you want. Conversely, sincere gratitude to people is a powerful emotion to convey, and opens up many doors. I send three hand-written thank you cards every morning. I send them to staff, customers, vendors, the media, and friends, and not only do I find people love receiving cards, but writing “thank you” puts me in an incredible mindset to start my day. This is not just about sending cards, though. It’s about having a deep appreciation for and wonder about the people and world around you.