How often do you spend time in thought thinking about how you communicate with others? At the end of the day words matter. The words you choose to connect with another human being will define that relationship. Relationships move your life a long the path of least resistance. Great talkers are quick to listen and slow to speak. When they do speak they chose words that get to the point sooner. Being an investigative listener takes practice. It’s hard to stay present, listen for a cue and then stay silent until it's your turn. What I admire about great talkers is their ability to scan the essence of your message. They read body inputs, eye contact and tag team a grin with a head nod that sucks you into what they are planning to respond with.
In this article I’d like to break down what I think separates a good talker from a great talker. Then I’d like to expand a bit on how you can practice some of these skills. Great talker’s speak with their body, eyes and ears. Oh and sometimes with their mouth. Is that even possible? Let's explore a few concepts together.
Body language. When I enlist in a great conversation I try to watch a great talkers movements. They are deliberate on how they move their arms, hands and legs. They know how to stand big and own the 3 feet circle around their body. You can almost feel the energy between the great talker and the listener. They are mindful of their body language and then have the ability to set it on autopilot. They do not have to think how they are moving because the movement of their body is in sync with their eyes and their words. They create as they speak. Observe a communicator you admire. Pay attention to how they communicate. It’s a remarkable skill to watch. They don’t fold their arms they open their arms like a bridge to engaging dialogue. They make you late for your next appointment because you forget what time it is? That is the energy I’m talking about. Go back to a time when you talked to someone you trust. They put their hand on your shoulder at the right time to tell you everything is going to be okay. Great talkers use their body language to build trust. If you want to be a great talker start with your body language. Master this skill and then learn to sync body language with your eyes.
Great talkers talk with their eyes. My Dad with a 3-second stare could say with his eyes he was proud of me. We always knew what he was trying to say even if he didn’t say anything. Great talkers know how to lean into the conversation with their eyes. They are self aware on how to use eye contact in a conversation. They invite you in with their eyes and then break eye contact so that little things don’t distract from their message. You can have great body language but if your eyes don’t sync with the message, people will not feel the message. Often times when I speak to people with good body language they lack the ability to talk with their eyes. They look down or away in the conversation. So I stop listening and then ask myself a question in the midst of the conversation. Why doesn’t this person make eye contact when they talk? Why does this person look away but their body language is still engaged? Sometimes I encounter the person that stares to long...do I have something on my face or in my nose? Then consciously leap back into the conversation and miss pieces of the message. Talking with your eyes is the hardest part to become a great talker. Your subconscious is a backseat driver of your eyes. You look somewhere and you don’t realize you are looking. My mother used to say “You can hide excitement, fear and anger in any place of your body except for your eyes.
Great talkers remember what you say. They know the key to connecting with someone is to acknowledge an impact statement from the other person and build off that idea. Think about the last time a colleague or a friend reminded you of something you said that had an impact on their life. It feels good to be heard. Great communicators remind people that their voice matters. Great talkers understand it’s more about the audience than it is about proving how smart you are. To be a good investigative listener you have to care. The next time you want to impress a listener don’t start with how much you know, start with how much you care. You show you care by being an empathetic listener. When you use listening as a starting point you can actually choose words that hit people in their chest. They will remember what you say! They will remember how you made them feel. I have so much respect for people who know how to remain present in a conversation. You lose me, if you touch your phone, look away or ask me a question to an answer I just gave you. My favorite is when someone is on their phone texting or surfing the web and they say “I’m listening” with no eye contact or body language. Now they may be able to repeat what you said but did they hear you?
Some people are just born with charisma. They have the gift of gab. Some of the best talkers I know use 2 of the 3 methods above instinctively. Below are three tips to start a path to a great talker. Remember this, the only person you are competing against is the person you were yesterday. It can take years to improve your communication skills. I suggest you double down on your strengths and improve on your weaknesses marginally over time.
Be mindful of your posture. STAND BIG. The next time you are talking with someone try to pull your shoulders back a bit and put some space between your elbows and hips. I read somewhere that just by raising your arms to appear bigger sends adrenaline to the brain. Just don’t be weird about it, so it's not a distraction. Also remind yourself to smile. People who sync a smile with their eyes and words are just more fun to be around. I know this is basic stuff. People forget to do it. Little things matter. I love saying to people with a frown - “Tell your brain to tell your face to smile”. if you master these small things they add up to well a great talker. I define body language as how you stand, how you move your legs, arms, face and the pace at which you move. Most people forget to prepare their feet. Watch for a talker that paces or shuffles their feet when they are engaged in a conversation. A small tweak to stand still and avoid rocking when you talk will make you more effective. Practice a speech or a talk you would have with your kids. Tell a funny story and practice it in the mirror. Keep the story the same and practice it with different body postures. Try it standing big, sitting down and slouched over. It’s crazy how different the talk will feel for you. Your body language is the foundation of a great talker. Get this right, and build on the next skill.
Your eyes. Earlier in the article I spoke to how the subconscious plays games with our eyes. When speaking I find myself creating poor eye contact when I don’t feel I have a strong grasp of my message. Its usually happens when I know just enough to be dangerous on a particular topic. My subconscious plays backseat driver and starts to yell at my eyes to look left, look right or look down. Then my conscious catches up and reminds me of my poor eye contact. I force myself into good eye communication habits again. This should also remind you to listen more. If you feel you are looking away a lot when delivering the message then ask a question of the listener so that you can regroup and navigate the conversation to a topic you feel you can add more value to as a friend, colleague or neighbor. If you are passionate about your message try to avoid talking to one listener if multiple people are engaged in the conversation. I feel the subconscious haunts me here too. You tend to direct your eyes to the listener that is most engaged in what you are saying. Next time you are talking, make sure you scan your eyes to all the people in the conversation and sprinkle a smile in-between there with each transition. This skill set a lone will make you a more dynamic talker. The last tip to remember when communicating with your eyes is to remember what my mom always said. You can’t hide what your feeling in your eyes. Practice syncing words with your eyes and you will have less distraction in your message.
Listen to hear, don’t hear to listen If you want to be a great talker. I mean if you really want to inspire, impact and connect with a listener you have to use listening as a starting point. It’s the only way to raise the level of your game. Early in my career I was horrible at remembering names. Most people are bad at this. I realized the reason I forget someone’s name as soon as the handshake breaks is for two reason’s.
1. I'm thinking about my name first, and then I made eye contact instead of ear contact.
2. I didn’t hear the other person’s name, I just listened to it.
This is fundamentally why you forget someone’s name. If you want to be a great talker, practice with just remembering someone’s name when you first meet them. People love the sound of their name if it’s not overused. If you remember someone’s name the first time you meet them, you have a head start in the relationship. You just proved from the start you are a good listener. In order to truly master this skill you have to come to grips with the fact the listener cares more about themselves than they do about you. They naturally want to talk more. If you want to gain a human edge in all relationships...put your phone away. Notice I didn’t say down. I mean in your pocket or in your bag when talking with someone. It will change how you listen, and how you engage or more importantly your life relationships.