September 28, 2016

How to Talk Less and Learn and Earn More

My father was a man of few words, but he was verbose compared to Cousin Jimmy. Once on a 550-mile car trip from Buffalo, NY to Portland, MA with his wife, Jimmy uttered six words. 

If you’re like Jimmy, to aid your professional success, memorize several universal questions stems. Use these to encourage others to speak.

One example: Why did or do you…? With this stem, ask questions, such as,

  • “Why did you attend today?”
  • “Why do you donate?”
  • “Why do you think the event was successful?”     

Most of us are not like Jimmy. Instead of too few word, we use too many. 

We talk to un-jumble thoughts racing through our heads. We talk to appear friendly. We speak in meetings to be noticed. We chat away to avoid awkward silences. We talk because it’s less scary than actions in the short run.

Our chatter gobbles up time. Worse, it stymies relationship growth. Here are five ways to talk less to increase your performance:

  1. Use why questions.
  2. Stop before speaking. Think how to summarize your answer.
  3. Pretend you’re being interviewed on the radio. Respond in a short paragraph that is two or three sentences.
  4. Avoid repeating yourself. If you hear yourself retelling something, laugh and say, “I was just about to tell you I was stressed…. again!”
  5. Before scheduled conversations, establish your agenda. What do you want to accomplish? Set minimum and maximum goals. When you begin, ask for the other person’s agenda.  Proceed orientating the conversation toward the goals.

Here’s a Challenge in Seven Words

Take the 30-Day-Be-More-Like-Jimmy-Challenge: Pick one of the five tactics above to use this month.

Want to create an organization-wide impact and improve your performance and donations by 10 percent? Challenge your staff to the 30-Day-Be-More-Like-Jimmy-Challenge.  

You can keep up with me. Subscribe to my newsletter, Karen’s CEO Solutions.   

Karen Eber Davis

Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.


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