Chapter 1—HOW TO TALK TO EVERYONE EFFECTIVELY
Everyone means you and me. How you talk to me and what I say to you establishes our judgments of each other. The talking habits we acquire set the tempo of our daily business conversations and are the key to eventual success in whatever career we undertake.
It is not only what we say, but how we say it, that builds our reputations, forms personal impressions, and influences our relationships with one another. There are so many ways of saying the same tiling, so many shades and nuances of expression, and so many degrees of intensity in saying it, that it is well worth our while to give serious thought to the manner, context, and style of our conversation.
The manner we use can add strength and emphasis to what we say. It can also do the opposite. We can be cheerful as well as emphatic, quiet as well as impressive, and modest as well as significant. Our conversational manner is often a clue to our inner feelings. If we are pleasant and sociable, we acquire a reputation for agreeableness. If we are pompous and dictatorial, people say that we have an unfortunate superiority complex. And if we are aggressive and arrogant, our associates begin to dislike us and keep away from us.
Getting along well with people is a mark of distinction in business. The people who make the greatest success in business are those who learn and practice the art of getting along well with everyone. Basically, this is the art of being able to talk to everyone so interestingly and so effectively that everyone is drawn to us and to our ideas.
The context of what you say is important because it is a mirror-like reflection of your ability on the job. It demonstrates clearly and forcibly the extent of your education, your interests, your intelligence, and your understanding of the subject in question. As someone wrote, “What you are speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
The things you say every day, and the way you say them, show whether your thoughts are well organized, well analyzed, and well spoken. At the same time, permanent impressions are formed in the minds of your listeners. It is others’ impressions, gradually formed from day to day, that eventually build your reputation and contribute to failure or success.
YOUR TALKING STYLE
The style of your talk makes a vital contribution to your reputation. You might be surly or cheerful, casual or sincere, nonchalant or meticulous. If you talk down to people, they will resent you. If you are too deferential, they may consider you weak and spineless. It is an acquired art to be able to talk to people on terms of equality, good comradeship and democratic give-and-take.
The man who talks well is neither formal nor didactic. He does not attempt to show off either his knowledge or his superiority. He talks as a likable human being, one man to another, always with an open mind that looks forward to suggestions and counter-suggestions. This is the type of man who is appreciated by his associates and warmly welcomed by his friends and contacts everywhere. This is the type of man who can be counted on to mix well, wear well, and work well on his way to success!
In discussing the purpose of this book with one of my friends recently, he said to me, “The trouble with most of us is that we talk without thinking, and I think that causes most of the troubles in this world.” The same gentleman, Charles T. Lipscomb, Jr., President, Pepsodent Division of Lever Brothers Company, says:
To be successful, certainly we must be articulate and persuasive, hut most important is to talk at the proper time and he quiet at the proper time; to talk about things that we know, and to avoid careless, impulsive, thoughtless talk.
Watch your terminal facilities. Never let it be said of you, as one executive said of an employee, “One tiling we can say about you is that you never use one word when two words would suffice.” Unfortunately, some people fall in love with the sound of their voice. They have no terminal facilities; they never know when to stop talking. They are continually looking for someone on whom to practice the art of speech.
Some people are like the man who turns on the cold water faucet and walks away leaving it running. There is an old saying that any fool can start a conversation, but it takes a smart man to know when to stop. Many a man talks himself into a profitable position, and then he talks himself out by not knowing when to stop! How many times have you said to yourself, “Oh, here comes that old bore—he never stops talking. He just keeps talking about the same tiling over and over as if he were in love with his voice.” Then you unconsciously get into the habit of avoiding him—and finally you grow to dislike him.
How much more welcome and more effective it would be if this man merely mentioned a subject to you and asked your advice about it, requesting you to explain its workings or its effect. Thus, he gives you a chance to express yourself, and he listens to you talking. Everyone loves the man who is a good listener and who gives you the opportunity to talk. You can think of a number of people whom you like because they usually give you plenty of opportunity to talk while they listen interestedly.
This world is filled with innumerable opportunities for daily success, if we could only recognize and take advantage of them. The goal of total success is more easily achieved when attained bit by bit. This is where the “divide and conquer” policy is so effective. Divide the greater goal into smaller objectives for daily performance, then make a success of each day as you live through it.
HOW TO BREAK THE ICE
Some people say, “I just cannot talk to people; I’m afraid to open my mouth.” Others may think, “Oh, he is so much smarter than I; he won’t think much of what I say.” Or you might think, “He talks so easily and so well; why should I open my mouth and make a fool of myself?” The truth is that all people are alike in their love to be able to talk to everyone, but many are so timid and bashful that they are simply afraid to take the lead in opening a conversation even with their daily associates in an office. Consequently, they acquire the undeserved reputation of being dumb, stupid, or too reserved.
Insurance salesmen have probably been best trained in the talking art. They have learned that one of the best ways to get along with everyone is to be able to talk to everyone. They are adept in talking interestingly to everyone they meet. They know from experience that once they start talking with a person in an interesting manner, they stand a good chance of beginning an acquaintance that may ripen into friendship, thus paving the way toward making a sale. John J. Andrews, the New York Life Insurance Company manager in Dayton, Ohio, says:
The first and most important factor is the attitude of the individual. All persons are interested in making acquaintances and friendships, but most of them do not know how to break the ice to start a conversation, even though they may be very eager to do so. If a person has the attitude and the desire to help someone, then the job of starting a conversation becomes very easy.
In traveling from town to town, I find it very easy to strike up a conversation with any person. Many times these people give me helpful ideas, and I also find them most cooperative in any venture in which I may be interested.
What one must realize is that most people are very much alike. Many times the quiet person, commonly described as the introvert, is the one who is most anxious to strike up a conversation. Many times the man who appears to be the most aloof is a man who has an inferiority complex, who is trying to hide his bashfulness or his timidity. A friendly greeting soon develops a warm friendship.
Let the other fellow do the talking. One of the smartest ways to make contact is to start talking about the other person’s interests. Make leading statements and ask leading questions. Questions should be designed to bring out the facts of their life, their experience, their hopes, their desires, their ambitions. Get them so interested in the answers to your questions that you start them talking about themselves. In this way you acquire the reputation of being an interested audience. They will love you for your interest, and they will become your grateful admirers.
I have never liked a man so well as when he practically invited me to tell him the story of my life, or when he asked for advice on a subject on which I was qualified to talk. That is human nature, and you will be smart to take advantage of it.
If you want to talk to someone you would like to get to know better, ask him what he thinks about the current political situation, or whether we are headed for a recession in business, or what kind of automobile he drives and why it is better than this or that car, or what he thinks of today’s traffic situation, or highway conditions, or the European situation, or the income tax rate, or food prices, or anything of current interest that you think might get him started.
The principal trick about getting acquaintances started into friendships, is to let your acquaintance get started doing the talking. There is only one subject he likes better than someone else, and that is himself. If you can get him talking about himself, you are his friend for life!
Mr. Harry N. Kuesel, Agency Manager of the Phoenix Mutual Life Insurance Company, in New York City, says that talking to people is one of the most interesting and at the same time one of the most important functions in his business career:
I have sometimes been asked how to overcome the difficulty which some men experience in striking up a conversation with strangers with whom he finds himself at a luncheon meeting, on a hotel porch, or on a ship or train while traveling.
I have found that the easiest method of starting a conversation, after the usual exchange of pleasantries about the food or the weather, etc., is to ask a man courteously, “What is your line of business, may I ask?” When he replies, it is very easy to follow up with another question, “Tell me, how did you happen to go into that line of work?” Nine times out of ten the reply will be, “Well, that is quite a story”—and then I am on the receiving end of a story for which my companion is usually glad to have found an audience.
As Dale Carnegie reminded us, there is no subject on which people are more ready to talk than about themselves. Once the ice is broken, there will usually be plenty of names and places and past events on which you and your companion can exchange further information and opinions.
Be yourself and you’ll be successful. Too many of us try to copy the style of people who are supposed to be successful. It is all very well to learn from the experience of others, or to pick up and perhaps elaborate on ideas that have proved a success in other fields of endeavor. But don’t ever attempt to copy literally another person’s style or manner of presentation. That is a great mistake, one that is apt to prove fatal to your reputation.
The best person you can be is yourself! You can develop a style and a reputation entirely your own. It may not be the best in the field, but at least it will belong to you.
For a number of years, I have been watching with interest the steady progress of Kinsey N. Merritt, who is now Vice-President of Railway Express Agency, in New York City. I have heard him talk at a number of meetings and conferences over the years, and even with my eyes shut I could know it was Kinsey Merritt talking. His unmistakable gentlemanliness, cordiality, and sincerity could belong to no one else. He recently said to me:
During the last 15 or 20 years, I have talked to thousands of people, some of them in groups running as high as five to ten thousand. I have talked with committees; I have talked with individuals at my desk or in personal conference; and I find that I am most successful in dealing with anyone, no matter what their station in life may be, if I am just myself.
So many of us in talking with others feel that we have to put on an act. We try to be overly friendly, or perhaps too dynamic, or too tough, or maybe too myste...