Posted: October 15, 2012
Four tips to engage anybody, anytime
Relationships are everythingBy Deirdre Maloney
If you’re looking to advance your career, your life, and your ability to lead, chances are you know the truth about relationships.
Relationships with our colleagues, friends, and others who have something we want are what lead us to…well, get what we want in life. Even when we’re trying to partner with a company, we’re not engaging with a company. We’re engaging with a person inside the company. And that person – that relationship - matters.
This isn’t a bad thing. In fact, when we know how to engage people, when we know how to go a level deeper than we were before, we are able to achieve new things…get new jobs, get the store to take our returned item with no receipt, get into the restaurant even if we don’t have a reservation.
All of this being said, engaging others isn’t necessarily easy. Which is why I present to you now the four tips I’ve discovered, which I use every day.
Tip #1: Know the truth. Nobody will find you as interesting as you
We all have a great interest in our lives, our families, our hobbies. Of course we do…these are part of our lives.
What we need to accept is that despite how interesting we find our lives to be – despite how fascinating we find our stories about our latest project, our kids’ soccer game and our argument with our sister – the truth is nobody else will find any of it as interesting as we do.
Will they care? Sure. But they won’t care about the intimate details of it all.
Which means when we engage with others we keep our stories short, our emails shorter and our complaints non-existent. We get to the best, cut out the rest of it, and get the focus on the other person.
When we leave them wanting more, they will want more...more discussions, meetings and connections with us. Which means we’ve gotten a level deeper. Which means they’re more likely to be there for us later.
Tip #2: Ask great questions
Engaging people means showing that you are interested in their lives, jobs and – in general – what they have to say. We show this when we ask great questions.
Great questions explore. They might begin with yes/no inquiries, but quickly move into the kind that start with “how” and “why”.
Some examples…Why did you choose this particular profession? Why did you choose to live here? What’s your favorite, secret restaurant in town? What’s surprised you most about being a parent?
Get creative and practice. Be sure to use their answers to ask the next question. Make sure you keep eye contact and turn off your phone.
You want them to feel like the most important person in the room, so treat them like it.
Tip #3: Energy begets energy
Ever been around a sighing, tired person at a networking event? How long did you stick around?
This means when we engage we need to be bright and enthusiastic (even if we don’t completely feel it). We need to be interested in what they have to say (even if we aren’t completely into it). We need to avoid whining about our day and telling others that we’re overwhelmed by our 80 hour workweek.
When we engage positively they will remember our encounter positively. Which means they’ll want to do it again.
A little bonus? When we act more positively, we actually feel more positive. Nothing wrong with that.
Tip #4: Stay classy
Life isn’t fair. Work isn’t fair. Bad things happen to us.
We want to tell others all about it. We want to talk about the person who has wronged us. That’s fine.
But not when we’re engaging with people.
That’s when we must resist the great temptation of talking trash about anybody…whether at the office, in a local restaurant, at a networking event. No matter how big the town.
Even when we think it won’t matter this once, even when we think others won’t overhear, it matters. It matters because we’ll get a reputation for being a trash-talker. It matters because, inevitably, what we say might wind up back to the person we talked trash about.
Talking trash is human nature, but not when that other human is someone we want to engage. Then we just come off as cranky and untrustworthy. Who would want more of that?
Deirdre Maloney is a national speaker, published author, and president of Momentum LLC, which helps individuals and organizations meet their goals and sleep better at night. Her new book, Tough Truths: The 10 Leadership Lessons We Don’t Talk About is hot off the press. Her first book, The Mission Myth, was released in November 2011.
Maloney will be speaking on Tough Truths at the Colorado Nonprofit Association Fall Conference and Exhibition on October 15. For more information on Deirdre, visit www.makemomentum.com . Twitter: www.twitter.com/Deirdre_Maloney.