The story of the Talking Head

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The other day I attended a business meeting where one person in the group– I’ll call him the Talking Head–absolutely dominated the conversation. He went on and on…. and on. This person was not the least bit curious about the opinions or comments of others in the room. And when someone did manage to get a sentence in, the Talking Head managed to interrupt.

At one point I really had something to say. I’d been trying to say it for five minutes. I took a deep breath so I could get it out as fast as possible before the Talking Head interrupted. Uh, oh. He saw me breathe and lunged forward with his next thought before I could exhale.

He talked fast, was intelligent, and had a certain degree of charisma, but absolutely no interest in participating in a conversation. Monologues were his thing.

Strangely, I had had a conversation with a similar type the week before. Both are entrepreneurs. Maybe they had drunk too much coffee that day. But the problem is that neither was exhibiting any level of listening skills, which is crucial if you want to be both successful and happy and actually have healthy relationships with other humans.

When you’re bursting with ideas or are passionate about your topic, it’s easy to become a Talking Head. Some people are just very outgoing and love to talk. I’ve been a Talking Head at times and maybe you have too. But developing the ability to listen is so much more effective and vital to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Here are a few tips:

Be curious

Cultivating a curiosity about everything around you will motivate you to ask people questions about themselves, their businesses, their habits, likes, dislikes and experiences. This will make them feel heard, appreciated and understood. Would you rather hire someone who makes you feel like that or a Talking Head? Well so would your prospects.

Listen Deeply

If you want to know your clients deepest desires and needs you won’t want to just listen to their words, but watch their body language and listen for what they might want to say but don’t. This is how you discover what you can provide for them that they will highly value and will be happy to pay for.

Don’t interrupt

Okay this is a hard one and it brings back memories of what your mother told you a thousand times.. But the truth is that when you interrupt you’re saying this: “what I have to say is more important than what you have to say and while you’re talking I’m thinking about what I want to say next”. Not very friendly, is it? It’s not that we do this intentionally. We’re often passionately involved in the topic of discussion and can’t wait to add our two cents. But just keep listening until an opening presents itself. Jot down your thought if you’re afraid you’ll forget it before your turn. Your fellow humans will feel heard.

I’ve found that during an initial meeting with a prospective client or gatekeeper, the less I talk and the more I ask questions and listen to the answers, the more likely that person is to hire me. This has been proven again and again.

So the next time you’re preparing for an important meeting, repeat this mantra first. “I am not a Talking Head. I am not a Talking Head”. Then go in and listen.


1 Comment
  • Jeanne May
    Posted at 19:23h, 07 March Reply

    Janis… I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts in this article.The Talking Head is an amazing experience to have in your group — I’ve had a few over the years in university classes I was teaching. It’s very hard on everyone else who are trying to pick up new skills or new information — after a while people begin to tune out and therefore everyone misses out.

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