This is a very difficult concept for some people, and I am well aware that it applies to me.
Sometimes, we just have to stop talking and let other people teach us what we need to know.
At some point in their careers, stage improvisors have usually experienced the sense of panic and doom when there is silence in a scene, and silence in the audience. We’re taught to embrace the silence, but achieving that level of calm takes time – and agreement from the rest of your team.
Of course there’s a connection to business!
Drake Baer writes in Fast Company that if you want to get ahead, you have to stop and listen.
“This is also something you learn in journalism school: that during an interview you don’t need to fill the space with your questions. If a source finishes her sentence, but doesn’t answer your question, you can let the silence hang–and the elaboration will (most likely) follow.” What works for journalists also works in sales.
We most often associate salespeople with fast-talking, manipulative methods. That’s why most salespeople drive us nuts. The best salespeople listen, both to hear what the customer really wants and how they want it sold to them. If you are patient, your customer will help you by elaborating. Being a good, focused listener also helps the client realize that they are in a partnership.
An exercise we use in our Applied Improvisation training, called First Letter, Last Letter, has participants in a dialogue where the first word anyone can use starts with the same letter as the last letter of the last word their partner used. In addition to finding out who struggles with spelling (not important) and who likes to make life difficult for their partner by constantly ending in the same letter or using x a lot (which could be a more important insight), participants are pushed by the game format into listening all the way to the end of their partners’ statements. Instead of deciding on a response and waiting to speak, the partners listen with intensity and focus – and hear things they would have otherwise missed. During our debrief of the exercise, I’ve frequently heard people say, “I really felt listened to!”
And while a source for Baer’s article says that ” ‘You learn nothing by saying something,’ since, by definition, you already know what you’re going to say.” I don’t think that’s entirely true. Many people solidify what they know, place things in memory and test theories by telling them to others. That’s absolutely the way my storytelling family works. Don’t immediately judge those who talk a lot – they may just be learning with you.
Respect that. Listen. Be a good partner.
Here is the article from Fast Company.
Patrick Short is one of those people who learns by talking, but he also learned to stay as quiet as possible on sales calls and maintains a pretty good closing ratio.