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Simon says, “Communicate for success.”

As you personally attend to your success business, effective success chaining requires productive communication with everyone you link to for input and with everyone who links to you. Importantly, communicating for success is not something totally different than normal conversation. It is, rather, simply normal conversation and a little more.

When you are having a simple conversation, neither you nor the other person has an agenda beyond expanding your relationship a little, enjoying each others company, and sharing whatever comes to mind. When you are communicating for success, one or both of you has an agenda beyond simple conversation. That agenda always includes, at a minimum, expecting the other person to do something, either while you are communicating or later. It may be as simple as letting you know what they think about something, giving you the benefit of their knowledge and experience, providing some new information, doing something you have asked them to do, or getting back with you later when you have more time. It may be very complex, e. g., developing a contract, working out the final plans for a big event, or planning for world peace. Whether the agenda is simple or complex, that agenda is the primary difference between simple conversation and success communication.

An interesting characteristic distinguishing the most successful people from others is they communicate for success regularly but seldom just have simple conversations. Whether they have another agenda or not, they always have a personal success agenda. They are continuously scanning for new information, looking for innovative ways to think about things, searching for unusual perspectives, developing potentially beneficial relationships, and seeking out opportunities to expand and enhance their success business. They never miss a chance to work on their success.

If you would like to make communicating for success so habitual you seldom do anything else, follow Simon’s rules for making every conversation a success communication opportunity.

•Never waste anyone’s time.

Whenever you initiate communication with anyone, be up-front about your explicit agenda. You might say, “I want to talk with you about X. I think it will take about Y minutes. My goal is Z. Do you have time for this now, assuming you are interested?” If they agree to the time, stick to your agenda and to the time limits they agreed to. If they want to take more time, say, “I am open to continuing this conversation but want to respect your schedule. May I put you in charge of how much more time we take? I have at least twenty more minutes.”

It is also fine to open the interaction with, “Do you have ten minutes to hang-out? I need a break and thought it would be fun to shoot the breeze with you.” Just be sure hanging out really is your primary agenda and you leave in ten minutes. You always respect the other person’s time, whatever your agenda.

•Communicating for success requires your full interest and attention.

Have you ever heard people say, “I was only half-listening,” “I was thinking about something else,” “I was distracted,” or something else letting the speaker know they were not paying attention and probably were not all that interested? Sure you have. It means they were not fully communicating, since complete communication requires both sides of the interaction: an effective communicator and an attentive listener.

•Slow down your listening to match what you are hearing; pace your analysis to what you are experiencing.

If your communication skills are normal, You can listen effectively at about 300 words a minute even though most people normally talk at only about 150 words per minute. When you are listening to someone talk, then, you are usually using only about half of your listening capacity. Another way to think about this is you are listening only about half of the time when people are talking to you. Most people use this excess capacity to think about what they are going to say or about what they think about what the speaker is saying. The problem is you cannot listen, analyze what is being said, and construct a response concurrently.

The problem gets worse. You analyze very rapidly. As you get a piece of information, you categorize it and anticipate the next piece of information. Unless the next piece varies a lot from what you anticipate, you automatically slip it into your mind where you expect it to fit. This goes on until you think you understand what is being said. Usually, you do; but you may not. You can anticipate too far ahead of the speaker and miss what is actually being said. Your understanding is but a construct of what you expected the speaker to say.

The problem compounds when you respond. You have not really heard what was said and now you respond based only on what you think the speaker said or would have said had the content been an exact match with what you anticipated.

The solution is simple but difficult. Slow your listening so you are really listening and slow your analysis so it keeps pace with what is actually being said. The key is not to anticipate what anyone is going to say until it is said and never consider your response while someone is talking.

You will know you are making progress when a speaker ends by asking, “What do you think?” and your honest response is, “Let me think about that. I was listening to what you were saying and trying to understand. I hadn’t given any thought to a response or to what I want to say.”

•Everyone has thoughts, ideas, and opinions worth your consideration.

Even more counter-productive than not completely listening is putting people into categories such as interesting/not interesting, worth listening to/not worth listening to, a valued potential source of ideas and information/someone who will never have any useful ideas.

Anyone might add something useful to your storehouse of information. Like other successful people, you cannot afford to miss out on any potential opportunities, no matter how unlikely they may seem at the moment.

•Withhold your ideas, thoughts, and opinions until others have had an opportunity to express theirs, until all of the good ideas are on the table.

This is a little success strategy Simon does not want you to miss out on. It capitalizes on a small quirk of human nature. Most people are eager to share their ideas and opinions but some are more reluctant. With the eager beavers, they are quick to share but also usually want to please and want to avoid conflict and tension. Given a chance, they share; but if you give out any signs you disagree or do not like what they are saying, they close off. If they continue interacting, they spend a lot of their energy trying to figure out what you think so they can shape what they say to minimize potential conflict.

For the more reluctant, their not saying anything is fine with them. They want you to talk so they do not have to. If all goes well, they do not have to talk, even when you are finished talking. Your best strategy is to let the eager beavers talk first and then encourage the more reluctant people to share their ideas and opinions. You then add your comments to the extent they contribute something new to what has already been said. However you handle this step, you do what you can to be sure no one takes their ideas, thoughts, or opinions away with them, without your having an opportunity to tuck them into your success company’s inventory of things worth knowing.

•Think about what you want to say before you say it, what you want to do before you do it, what you want to happen before it happens.

Does that sound like one of your old friend Simon’s little success rules you have heard before? Sure it does. Listen and learn. Think and talk. That Simon, he just keeps plugging away on some of the finer success points over and over again.

•You cannot succeed if you let your mouth get ahead of your brain.

•You cannot succeed if you let your actions get ahead of your judgment.

•You cannot succeed if you let things get out-of-hand.

At a very important level, your success is a mind game; and if you take your mind out of the game, your success is instantly jeopardized. You may say the appropriate thing, may do the right thing, may have everything turn out just fine, without giving it a second thought or even a first thought. You may be so in-tune with people and events you can play it by ear, make it up as you go along, go with the flow, fake it, wing it, or maybe even take care of your success business in your sleep. You also may believe people are too stupid to catch on or you are so smart you can get away with it. Whatever your sense of it, though, Good luck. Just know the most successful people, yes, all of them, think before they speak, think before they act, think about what they want to happen before it happens.

You are a thoughtful person who values your success too much to ever let it be jeopardized by things you can control. You always keep your mind in the game and never let your success ride on the caprice of the moment. You are far too smart to ever be that dumb. You know the simple truth is, when it comes to your success: Either you play the game or the game plays you.

•Separate your interests from those of other people.

This is a success strategy that serves the success super-stars very well. They know their interests are never exactly the same as those of other people and two people never have identical interests. At best, people have shared interests or perhaps reciprocal interests.

Even when people have shared interests, they still do not have quite the same interests; and those differences, no matter how slight, are potential sources of conflict, tension, and misunderstanding. Usually these differences have to do with what or why: exactly what each wants to happen or why they think as they do. If you know what the differences are, you can likely avoid the problems that may develop. Simply assume there are differences and proactively get them out in the open. Be as clear about your whats and whys as you can be and encourage the other person to do the same. Even then, attend to anything that might be a sign of interest conflict. Just remember such problems can and will come up when you least expect them, if you do not make interest recognition a continuing priority.

People with reciprocal interests include buyers and sellers, doctors and patients, supervisors and supervisees, or any other situation where two people have a reciprocal relationship. Generally, one person wants the other person to do something and the other person wants to do it or they both want something to happen for different reasons. Attend very carefully to each person’s whats and whys and to whether they are really compatible enough to proceed.

•Do not agree with people just because you think they are right or argue just because you think they are wrong.

Agreeing or arguing is usually inappropriate if either the issue is unimportant or the other person has no interest in your thoughts or point of view. You want to save your agreement and disagreement for those times when it makes a difference or when your opinion is requested. Those are the times when you can have the most influence; and if you just reflexively agree or argue, your effectiveness when it matters will be lessened.

There is another time to follow Simon’s advice here, though,  i.e., when you want to encourage independent thinking, when you want people to be empowered to do the right thing whenever it needs done. If you normally let them know whether you agree or disagree with their ideas and plans, they tend to rely on you as someone to run their ideas by before they do things. If there is any risk or possibility of error, they are likely to go with your thoughts about it instead of doing what they think should be done. If the outcome is not good, they then put the responsibility back to you. Also, they do not learn to use their best judgment in all situations, whether you are there to advise them or not.

Instead of encouraging independence and empowerment, you unintentionally foster dependency and uncertainty. Unless you want to make all of the decisions and do not want the person to function autonomously, sometimes it is best to keep your ideas and opinions to yourself.

•Conflict sabotages your success if it gets personal, lasts too long, or becomes destructive.

Simon certainly does not want to belabor this point; but it is important. It is yet another reason not to argue just because you disagree. It is yet another reason to find ways to tell people, “Yes,” whenever you can. It is yet another reason to be a skilled and effective communicator, problem solver, and opportunity spotter.

You want to resolve conflict as quickly as you can, as soon as you become aware of it. Even better is to prevent or avoid conflict in the first place. If conflict is not present, it cannot be a problem.

You do not avoid conflict by capitulating when you should hang tough, by accepting things you should resist, or by going along just because it is easier. At the same time, you do not cause conflict just because you are upset, frustrated, do not like the way things are going, or hold your ground just because you do not want to back down. You think before you talk, think before you act, and think about what you want to happen before it happens. You use all of your skills to appropriately avoid conflict and to resolve it if it is unavoidable. Conflict can compromise your success and you are not going to let that happen, if you can possibly prevent it.

•Search until you find both the fact and the feeling.

This rule applies in all communication situations but is particularly important when conflict is an issue or potential issue. Conflict always involves more than a disagreement. Were that not the case, the people would just agree to disagree and life would go on. For whatever reason, both people are unable or unwilling to let go of it. If either person lets go, the conflict disappears. When neither lets go, there is conflict.

It is easy to see finding the facts is important; but fact finding is not as easy as you might think. People can disagree about whether something is a fact and disagree even more about which facts are important. They also can feel quite differently about the facts and about what should happen. One person feels a specific fact does not matter and the other feels the fact makes a critical difference.

You usually cannot resolve conflict until there is agreement on the facts and seldom resolve it without clearly understanding the feelings behind the facts, yours and those of the other person.

•Give people feedback before you give them advice.

An important goal in all success communication is to develop congruence: the point you accurately understand what the other person says and they accurately understand what you say. It is likely no surprise to you people misunderstand each other, think they are on the same page when they are not, believe they have communicated when they have not. Failure to achieve congruence is a common problem you avoid whenever you can.

Get into the habit of feeding back to people what you think they have said before you proceed with your thoughts, ideas, opinions, or advice. You then simply ask them if that is what they intended. If so, you can proceed. If not, ask them to try again, tell you one more time what they want you to know.

It takes a little more time, is a little awkward, and is not the way people usually communicate; but so what? You are not like everyone else and it is your success on the line every time you communicate. If people are bothered by that, they just have to get over it. Most people interpret your feeding back what they have said and making sure you understand as unusual interest in their ideas and opinions. Instead of being put-off by the behavior, they are flattered by the extra attention.

Feeding back what people say to you is also a good way to be sure you are slowing your listening to what you are hearing, pacing your analysis with what you are experiencing.

•Know what you want people to do with their turn once you have finished your turn.

That Simon, he certainly is into timing, timing, timing. He has saved the communication bottom-line for last. There is little point in communicating unless you want the other person to do something and no point in saying anything unless you want the other person to respond in some specific way. You do not want them to walk away as if you had not communicated and you do not want them to start reciting The Gettysburg Address as a response to everything you say. You have expectations. What do you expect as a result of the communication and what kind of response do you want when you talk? The challenge is to slow your responses enough so you not only know what you want to say before you say it but also know what you want to happen before it happens. This is important enough for another one of Simon’s little success rules.

•If you do not know what you want to happen, you probably will not like what happens.

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