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The Art of Conversation - Part 6: Telling Them What They Want to Hear

By John McManamy

You're through listening. You have heard out the other party without butting in or changing the subject or showing off your own knowledge or making wisecracks or attacking or counter-attacking. You have encouraged the other party to keep talking, interjecting only to ensure that you are correctly interpreting their words and emotions. 

Now the other party signals it's your turn to talk. What do you say? Believe it or not, if you have been listening and listening actively, it's fairly easy.

If you're a loved one whose partner has been threatening to leave, you are in a position to skillfully craft an olive branch.

If you're a doctor, you can confidently prescribe a blood-thinner rather than a colon-cleanser.

If you're a refrigerator salesperson, you know to show your customer the model that's perfect for storing beer, not the one that comes equipped with free HBO.

If you're a con man, your mark will gladly hand over all their hard-earned money and thank you for it.

Speaking of con men: "Smooth-talking" con man is a misnomer. "Smooth-listening" is more like it. Con men thrive on keeping their ears open. They want to know everything - you, your life story, your kids, why nothing would please you more than throwing Richard Simmons off a Carnival Cruise ship in waters infested by sharks who are slow picky eaters.

By the time you have finished talking, the con man knows exactly what you want to hear. So does the saint. People often have difficulty telling the difference, especially when they are hearing what they want to hear.

Or, to change the perspective slightly, when YOU are the one telling them what they want to hear. It may be your skeptical loved one. It may be someone interviewing you for a job. The conversation has turned. The other party is all-ears. The spotlight is on you. It's time for your elevator pitch. The principle is simple:

You need to be able to articulate the gist of your point or what you stand for in the time it  takes to ride an elevator. Fifteen seconds. Thirty, tops. If you can't do it, then you haven't carefully thought out your position. You're just babbling. You're wasting other people's time.

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