You may have your own way to connect with people in your business. And you may be very happy with how you communicate with them. Is that the case? This includes your colleagues, direct reports, clients, and other people you come across every day. Today I’m thinking about how you can better communicate with your connectors. And also how you can help your connectors understand the best way to give you business referrals.

All business success rises and falls on communication.

Nathan Manzaneque

To have your connectors motivated to give you good quality business referrals, relationships must be built. Are you a good relationship builder? That means you have to engage with your connectors and talk to them about everyday life. What helps you do that? Well, for starters having some common ground really helps. What do I mean with common ground? Likes, interests, hobbies, and shared experiences. And while these things help you connect with other people who have something in common with you, there is this a more powerful way to connect.

Managers usually know how to connect with people like them. Great leaders though, are able to meaningfully connect with people that have nothing in common with them. How do they do it? True, sometimes there are people that just have it in them. It seems to be second nature to them. They’re awesome in dealing with people. And very often that is because they truly like people.

Good managers know how to connect with people like them. Good leaders are able to connect also with people unlike them.

Nathan Manzaneque

But I’m not referring to natural ability here. I am talking about something you and me can model, and do time and time again. And it is a twofold strategy:

  1. Aggressive Listening.
  2. Aggressive Storytelling.

Let’s begin with the first step for great leadership. You cannot share compelling stories unless you are great with listening. And to be great at listening you need an aggressive approach. In what way?

Aggressive Listening

Ok, we don’t usually like the idea of aggressive, do we? We like things easy and pleasant. When I talk about aggressive listening I mean to aim to be the last man or woman speaking. Does that sound weird to you?

Well, when you wait for others to speak you have a wider perspective of others views before you even have to open your mouth. It makes you sound (and become) more intelligent when you speak. To achieve this we have to listen at least twice as much as we speak. In fact, that may not be nearly enough. It’s not only about how much you listen vs how much you talk. It’s also about the quality of your listening. It’s about being 100% present with the person that is talking to you.

Be aggressive in sprucing up your listening skills

Very often I try to observe people talking to each other. I observe how their body language gives away their behavioural style, their motivational and communication traits, and much more. If you observe people talking to their connectors in a networking meeting for example, you can see how sometimes they are not 100% engaged in the conversation. At least, they are not showing themselves 100% present to what other people say and what they mean. How can your body language make your connector feel you are fully engaged and listening to them?

a. Take notes when they speak. When they are doing a presentation about their business show that you care by taking notes and asking questions if it’s appropriate.

b. Look them in the eye. It is an international way to display you really are listening. No need to make them uncomfortable. Depending on their culture usually is a sign of confidence and helps building rapport.

c. Lean slightly forward towards them and show visible signs of your engagement, like nodding, or with your hand gestures.

d. Do not cross arms and legs. It gives the idea that you are kind of closed to what the other person has to say. Or that you are so relaxed you are not taking a great deal of interest in them and their views.

You may have also heard about another way to show you care about what your connector says; obtaining clarification. It’s not as fancy as it may sound. It’s works mainly by asking questions that show you want to understand the other person better. It lets the other person see that you care about what they’re talking about and that you want to have all the details right.

You can also repeat in your own words what they are telling you to ensure you are getting it right. It validates your understanding of the conversation and makes your connector aware of what you are taking away from the interaction.

And here is the question of showing respect for your connector. Do you respect people you meet with for business? You may think you always do. And I am sure you are right, of course. Maybe you know someone though, that does some of these things when having a meeting with somebody else:

  • Answering their phone during the meeting with some lame excuse, like «sorry, I have to take this call
  • Looking at their phone every now and again during the meeting.
  • Interrupting their connector. Finishing his / her sentences. Or even better! The ‘and me more’ syndrome. Before he / she finishes explaining his/her story, they interrupt and explain why their own story is stronger, more difficult, or more powerful.

If we realise we do this, let’s stop it please! It’s hard to resist the temptation to do any of these things, particularly if we have grown in the era of tablets and smartphones. And yet, unless we resist the urge to do any of them, our connector will doubt of our honest interest in listening to them.

How will these few ideas affect your meetings with people you network with? Hopefully you will be more ‘aggressive’ in the way you listen. More conscientious! And other people will perceive you as more credible, more influential, and a better leader.

Aggressive Storytelling

We could describe storytelling as the art of connecting your story with the story of the person you are trying to inspire. And you definitely want to inspire people you network with. If you do inspire them, they will be more inclined to help you. And that usually means generating good referrals for you. Interested?

Be aggressive in crafting authentic stories to communicate to others in a more inspiring way

What is the secret of powerful storytelling? I was thinking about a few aspects:

  1. Finding the crossways. This is the moment in your story that intersects with your connector’s personal story. Everybody has plenty of stories and experiences, even if they are buried somewhere in their memory. So find out where they touch.
  2. Authenticity and truth. Your storytelling cannot be fake or made up. Otherwise, how could it help you build trust and rapport with the other person? Be ready to share and do not be afraid to show yourself a tad vulnerable. It will go a long way in helping you establish common ground. Your likability will go up!

Storytelling is the art of connecting your everyday experiences with your audience’s own everyday experiences.

Nathan Manzaneque

What kind of stories can you use if you are to use ‘aggressive storytelling’ to help you get more clients through referrals? Here I include some of my storytelling sources:

Nathan’s Top 12 Storytelling Sources

  1. Your childhood happy moments
  2. Your childhood unhappy memories
  3. First time you did something that transformed you
  4. Scary situations
  5. Shocking things
  6. Boring things
  7. Failure in life
  8. Failure in business
  9. Biggest learning moments
  10. Biggest Aha moments
  11. Biggest mentor you had
  12. Family biggest experience for you

How can you build your story?

First of all you have to dig for stories every day. Do you know when I usually ask you as reader to a MIP time (Most Important Person)? Yeah, that’s you! Yourself. Well, when you are having one of those times, hopefully with a coffee in your hand, set aside a few minutes to enjoy reflecting about your target audience and connectors’ stories. Think about what they experience and go through.

Second, if the story was the effect, look for the cause behind the experience you are thinking about. What are the most important elements that explain the story?

Third, find the crossways between the experience your target audience or connector has had and your own story. And I don’t mean finding a story where you both were skydiving. That’s not the idea. I refer to stories with similar defining elements or cause.

Aggressive story telling has to be with being generous in your use of stories when you are explaining concepts. When you are sharing your vision for the business. When you want to explain why change can benefit your audience. In so many other settings.

And yet, aggressive storytelling has nothing to do with competing with your story every time someone shares a personal problem or something in their past that affects them. Empathise with people who share their stories and don’t try to make your story fit when pushing for ‘your book’ would be distasteful. There is nothing inspiring in that sort of aggressiveness.

You can use aggressive listening and storytelling in a powerful way. It doesn’t have to do as much with your public speaking skills. Probably it has a lot more to do with the time you spend thinking, crafting, and sharing your personal stories. Allowing others to see your authenticity, and your real inner self in the way you illustrate your communication.

Our leadership fails or succeeds based on our ability to communicate with people that are not like us. Are you ready to work more aggressively in your leadership skills?