One of the fiercest political rivalries of the 19th century was between William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. Both were vying to become the next Prime Minister — at that time in England, the winner would practically control half the world.
A young woman dined with the men on consecutive nights.
A reporter asked her about her impression of the rival statesmen.
“When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England.”
“But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.”
Without further adieu, here are the 11 keys to effective human communication:
1. Look into their eyes (or imagine doing so if you’re not speaking face-to-face).
2. Actually listen (instead of ignoring them, anxiously waiting your turn, or talking over them).
3. Continue listening (what are they REALLY trying to say?)
4. Find comfort in the silent spaces (words and silence are like life and death — there’s no one without the other)
5. Smile (it’s contagious)
6. Nod as you continue actively, actually listening (nodding also happens to be one of the most effective persuasion methods)
7. Listen to what they aren’t saying (how often do they pause? are they comfortable with silence?)
8. Listen to how they say what they say (vocal inflections, tone, speed)
9. Be on the lookout for non-verbal clues (e.g. you can tell they’re very happy/excited about what they’re saying if their eyes smile at you as they speak)
10. Give them feedback to show how much you really care about what they’re saying (“Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying, I think you said [summarize their main points].”)
11. Ask them open-ended questions (be like Sherlock Holmes on the look-out for clues; inquire if necessary)
It doesn’t matter whether you speak or stay silent the whole time (so steps 10 and 11 are optional).
Words are a tiny portion of communication — in fact, they often get in the way of communication.
Most people just really, really want someone to Listen.
P.S. – Benjamin Disraeli won the popular election.
P.P.S – The author wrote this blog post for self-guidance. Learning to listen is a life-long journey; many people die having never experienced the wonderful feeling of truly listening.