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