Monday, 28 November 2011

Forget the 80:20 rule in conversations

One thing you’ll see a lot in of networking books are rules of thumb like the ’80:20’ rule. The idea of the ’80:20’ rule is that you speak 20% of the time and they speak 80% of the time.

I do like this rule to an extent because it helps people overcome the spectre of conversational narcissism. By encouraging people to spend more time listening and less time talking, better conversations result.

However, I think the 80:20 rule is overly simplistic. It implies that you will take a passive role in the conversation and be the ‘listener’. The problem this creates is the other person will forget who you are. They might remember you as being a ‘really good listener’, but so what? You don’t want them to remember them for that. You want them to remember you as the owner of an exciting business they want to deal with, or an amazing consultant they want to hire. You need to leave an impression. This means you need to talk. Not all the time. But at certain points in the conversation, you most certainly do.
I suggest an alternative: the triumph model of networking conversations.

The triumph model of networking conversationsThe triumph model shows you how to spread the 80:20 rule across a conversation. At some times you need to be the one doing most of the talking. At other times, you need to do the listening. The process looks like this.

Make 'em comfy

If someone is scared of you or scared of the situation, there is no way they will share anything meaningful with you. They’ll clam up. They’ll talk about superficial things like TV and football and won’t go any further. Given that only deep conversations will allow you to achieve your objectives, you need to do something to make them feel comfortable.

A few things work well here:
  • Mutual self disclosure
  • Humour
  • Behavioural synchrony

Listen to em

What are your goals for this conversation? If you're smart, one of them will be to find out as much about the other person as possible so that you can see how you could help them and they could help you.

To do this, you need to shut up. Resist the urge to interrupt and share a story "Oh wow! My friend just went to Ayres rock too!". Maintain friendly facial contact. Use appropriate phatic communication so they keep on talking. 

Make em an offer

After you've found out lots about them, you know enough to offer them something. It might be catching up for a coffee to discuss a business deal. It might be connecting them up with a friend who might be able to help them. Keep it short and sharp. You want to close this conversation up so you can go and meet other people.

No comments: