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The Forgotten Power of Conversation

The Forgotten Power of Conversation

Conversation is becoming a lost art, replaced by endless talk. To converse is to share ideas and learn from one another in the process. It demands listening and talking in equal degrees. Talk is one-way. All those people endlessly talking into their cellphones, the TV chat shows, the instant pundits on any topic, all of them talk without ceasing yet rarely pause to listen. We live surrounded by constant chatter that amounts to little more than fear of silence.

Go to any meeting in any organization. What will you discover? People who spend their time between talking thinking about what to say next. People eagerly seizing on someone else’s words purely as the excuse for talking themselves. Decisions made before the meeting ever takes place. No one listens. No one is open to persuasion. Attendees are briefed to take a position, regardless of what’s said after they arrive. Like politicians toeing the party line, they have open mouths and tightly shut minds.

People don’t even say what they mean when they do speak. Our organizational heroes are like John Wayne, strong and silent types, hiding themselves behind the action-man exterior. In “Conversation: How Talk Can Change Our Lives,”

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    Theodore Zeldin uses dialogue from a John Wayne movie to make the point. When the heroine says to Wayne, “You don’t need anybody but yourself,” she could as easily be speaking to a top executive in a corporation.

    “I want a woman who needs me,” Wayne replies. It’s all about him it seems. But when the heroine wears a sexy dress to attract his attention, all he can say is, “You wear those things and I’ll arrest you.”

    “I thought you’d never say it,” she replies.

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    “Say what?”

    “That you love me.”

    “I said I’ll arrest you.”

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    “It means the same thing. You know that. You just won’t say it.”

    Action-man (and action-woman) leaders prove their superiority by aggression. They don’t need to listen, and they cannot be persuaded save by aggression greater than their own. Conversation has no place in their lives. Who needs talk when there’s action to be done? Who needs to persuade others when you can manipulate them, or coerce them, or (like political fixers the world over) use dirty tricks to discredit them?

    Conversation is personal contact, the meeting of minds in a mutual search for what life and work are about and how we should deal with both. It’s approaching others with an open mind and ready sympathy for their concerns, not just our own. When people converse, a change of opinion is always possible. What would happen if politicians and leaders began to converse, instead of shouting pre-prepared political slogans? Might there be a chance to put the needs of the nation as a whole before narrow, sectional interests?

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    Conversation is the ultimate human interest activity, at work or outside, bringing you into direct contact with people in all their complexity and vulnerability. It’s also the best remedy for the sense of alienation from society that’s the underlying cause of vandalism, crime and terrorism.

    People want most of all to be heard; to have others listen to them — really listen — and understand their needs and concerns. If you want to attract and keep good employees, if you want to retain good customers, if you just want to have a better quality life, cut all the chatter and start a conversation. It will change your world.

    Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at The Coyote Within and Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the fun and satisfaction to management work.

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    Last Updated on January 21, 2020

    How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

    How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them

    If I was a super hero I’d want my super power to be the ability to motivate everyone around me. Think of how many problems you could solve just by being able to motivate people towards their goals. You wouldn’t be frustrated by lazy co-workers. You wouldn’t be mad at your partner for wasting the weekend in front of the TV. Also, the more people around you are motivated toward their dreams, the more you can capitalize off their successes.

    Being able to motivate people is key to your success at work, at home, and in the future because no one can achieve anything alone. We all need the help of others.

    So, how to motivate people? Here are 7 ways to motivate others even you can do.

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    1. Listen

    Most people start out trying to motivate someone by giving them a lengthy speech, but this rarely works because motivation has to start inside others. The best way to motivate others is to start by listening to what they want to do. Find out what the person’s goals and dreams are. If it’s something you want to encourage, then continue through these steps.

    2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

    Open-ended questions are the best way to figure out what someone’s dreams are. If you can’t think of anything to ask, start with, “What have you always wanted to do?”

    “Why do you want to do that?”

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    “What makes you so excited about it?”

    “How long has that been your dream?”

    You need this information the help you with the following steps.

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    3. Encourage

    This is the most important step, because starting a dream is scary. People are so scared they will fail or look stupid, many never try to reach their goals, so this is where you come in. You must encourage them. Say things like, “I think you will be great at that.” Better yet, say, “I think your skills in X will help you succeed.” For example if you have a friend who wants to own a pet store, say, “You are so great with animals, I think you will be excellent at running a pet store.”

    4. Ask About What the First Step Will Be

    After you’ve encouraged them, find how they will start. If they don’t know, you can make suggestions, but it’s better to let the person figure out the first step themselves so they can be committed to the process.

    5. Dream

    This is the most fun step, because you can dream about success. Say things like, “Wouldn’t it be cool if your business took off, and you didn’t have to work at that job you hate?” By allowing others to dream, you solidify the motivation in place and connect their dreams to a future reality.

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    6. Ask How You Can Help

    Most of the time, others won’t need anything from you, but it’s always good to offer. Just letting the person know you’re there will help motivate them to start. And, who knows, maybe your skills can help.

    7. Follow Up

    Periodically, over the course of the next year, ask them how their goal is going. This way you can find out what progress has been made. You may need to do the seven steps again, or they may need motivation in another area of their life.

    Final Thoughts

    By following these seven steps, you’ll be able to encourage the people around you to achieve their dreams and goals. In return, you’ll be more passionate about getting to your goals, you’ll be surrounded by successful people, and others will want to help you reach your dreams …

    Oh, and you’ll become a motivational super hero. Time to get a cape!

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    Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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