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Do you want to get your customer’s attention? Odds are you are starting your conversations with the wrong word.
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In their recently published book, As We Speak; How To Make Your Point And Have It Stick, Peter Meyer’s and co-author, Shann Nix teach their audience the skill of high performance communication. Understanding these skills is imperative to any entrepreneur, even if you are not a public speaker. You can make difficult conversations easier and more effective and get your point across successfully to your customers, vendors and employees.

Today, I invited Peter to tell us more about a simple strategy that will make any pitch or conversation more convincing so that you can garner the results that you’re looking for:

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You use an average of 10,000 words a day. You may engage in of hundred conversations every week and hundreds of meetings every month. You are constantly sending out tweets, emails, and phone messages.

And most of the time, you are probably starting out with the wrong word.
Chances are, you begin each communication with the word: “I.” 
Why not? You might think. After all, it’s I who am calling, I who am writing. It’s all about me, right?

Wrong.
 
It’s not about you. It’s all about them.

Any time that you engage another person, you have to earn their attention. To do this, you need to talk about their favorite topic: themselves!
Change your “I-You ratio.” Start with the word “You,” and try to use ten “You’s” for every “I”.

Every listener you have is bombarded by roughly 2500 claims on his attention every day, by means of television, Internet, advertising, phone calls and texts.  We spend most of our time sifting through a barrage of information and quickly deciding what we want to listen to, and what we don’t. Most things get shuffled into the “don’t” pile.

But when you start with the word “you,” you are speaking to the listener’s interest. You become instantly relevant. Why? Because they don’t really care about you, they care about themselves.

What are you going to do for them? What have you got to offer them?  Can you create clarity where they’re confused? Can you provide insight where there’s doubt? And most importantly, can you identify what they really care about in your first three sentences?

Listen to the opening words of any speech or meeting that you attend today. Read any e-mail that you’ve received – or written! Chances are, it will begin with the word “I,” and carry on focusing on “I” all the way through.
Does this sound familiar?

“I’ve been in this business a long time and I bring a great deal of experience and expertise. I’m confident that I can bring an enormous amount of energy and insight to the company, and I feel quite confident that I can provide an excellent service in the work you’re doing.”

Are you interested? Engaged? Compelled?

Probably not. And why not?

Because the speaker is talking about nothing but himself.

Booooooooring!

Notice that there is a single reference to the other person, but it doesn’t come until the very end of the paragraph. This statement is not about service; it’s all about the speaker.

Now turn it around.

“After meeting you, it’s clear that your business is on the verge of tremendous growth. You’re facing some challenges that many companies at this stage of growth have faced before. I’m confident that together, we can help you accelerate your business and take you to the next level of success.”

Feel different?

It really is that simple. Just change your “I-You ratio.”  If you want to get someone’s interest, put the spotlight on the word “you.” We’re not saying never use the word “I” …but when you do, make sure that it is in the service of the word “you”!

The same principle applies when you are sitting down to have a courageous conversation with an employee.  Instead of saying, “I’m going to talk to you about what I need, what I expect and how I want you to behave,” try it this way:

“You’ve been with us for two years now, and you’ve talked several times about your desire to get to the next level of the company. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it - but there are a few things holding you back. I’d like to share some of those with you, and get your feedback.”

Here’s more good news: what works in the office also works at home. Try changing the I-You ratio with your children, or with your spouse. Check it out in your e-mails, and notice the different response you get.

Why does it work? Because this is not about manipulation. It’s about authenticity. You need to actually serve the people with whom you are in dialogue. If you want them to focus their attention on your words, you must genuinely demonstrate your intention to meet their needs.

After all these centuries and all the technology we’ve developed, there are still only two ways to influence people. First, there’s the medieval technique of coercion: “Do it because I tell you to.” Second, there’s the more enlightened way: meet someone’s needs. When people feel that their needs are being met, they will walk through fire for you.

That’s because everybody wakes up in the morning and asks the same question – how can I get my needs met today? That’s the only question most of us ask, all day long.

So, in your next conversation or email, whether you’re having a tough conversation or pitching your business, ask yourself: “What basic human need am I addressing?”

Change your “I-You ratio.” And make sure that it’s all about them.

Learn more about powerful and effective communication from Peter during our discussion on The Million Dollar Mindset. You are welcome to call in with questions if you catch the live show! Monday, October 24th at 2-3pm ET. See you there!

Peter Meyers is the founder of Stand & Deliver Consulting Group. He teaches performance and leadership skills at Stanford University, Esalen Institute, and IMD-International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland.

Last updated: Oct 24, 2011

MARLA TABAKA

Marla Tabaka is a small-business advisor who helps entrepreneurs around the globe grow their businesses well into the millions. She has over 25 years of experience in corporate and start-up ventures and speaks widely on combining strategic and creative thinking for optimum success and happiness.




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