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Whether the setting is social or professional, one of the first things to accomplish in talking to people is to put them at ease.
Most of us are naturally shy, and believe me, shyness I know.
And all of us tend to be nervous or at least on edge when we’re talking to someone we haven’t met before or talking in public for the first time.
The best way I’ve found to overcome shyness is to remind yourself of the old saying that the person you’re talking to puts his pants on one leg at a time.
Sure it’s a cliche, but like most cliches, it happens to be true, which, of course, is why they become cliches in the first place.
That cliche is an effective way of illustrating that we are all human beings, so just because you’re talking to a college professor with four degrees or an astronaut who has flown in space at 18,000 miles an hour or someone who has been elected governor of your state doesn’t mean you should come unglued.
Always remember this, people you’re talking to will enjoy the conversation more if they see you are presenting yourself as someone who is enjoying it, too, whether you consider yourself their equal or not.
Keep in mind that almost all of us started out the same way.
Very few of us are born to wealth and power, unless you are Kennedy or a Rockefeller or a member of a few select families.
Most of us started out as children of middle or lower income families.
We worked part time to pay for college or while getting started in our careers.
And chances are the people we’re talking to did, too.
Maybe we’re not as rich and famous as they are or as successful in our field, but we probably came from similar backgrounds, so we can relate as brothers and sisters.
You don’t have to stand there feeling inferior or intimidated.
You belong in that room just as much as the person you are talking to.
It also helps you to overcome your shyness if you remember that the person you’re talking to is probably just as shy as you are.
Most of us are.
Reminding yourself of this will do wonders for your ability to shed your own shyness.
Sometimes you meet a person who is a lot shyer than you.
If you are meeting someone for the first time, get them on a comfortable ground.
Ask them about themselves.
That will give you something to talk about, and your conversation partner will consider you a fascinating talker.
Why? Because people love to be talked to about themselves.
Don’t take my word for it.
The same advise comes from Benjamin Disraeli, British novelist, statesman and Prime Minister: ‘Talk to people about themselves and they will listen for hours.’
And Dale Carnegie put it effectively in his book ‘How to win friends and influence people,’ which has now sold 15 million copies: “To be interesting, be interested.”
He added, “Ask questions that other persons will enjoy answering. Encourage them to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. Remember that the people you are talking to are a hundred times more interested in themselves and their wants and problems than they in you and your problems. A person’s toothache means more to that person than a famine in China which kills a million people. A boil on one’s neck interests one more than forty earthquakes in Africa. Think of that the next time you start a conversation.”
Adapted from HOW TO TALK TO ANYONE, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE by Larry King and paraphrased by Ayodeji Oladeji Charles.
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