How is it that some people always seem to know the important stuff? You know the type I mean - it's the guy at the office who always knows when to ask for a raise, the girl who knows where to get extra tickets to tonight's show - at a discount. Why do people open up and tell Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey all their secrets?
The secret is active listening. In any conversation there are two parts - telling and listening. When you listen actively, you encourage others to open up and tell you more. By listening with your body, you engage the person who is talking with you, drawing them in and making them more comfortable. The more comfortable they are with you, the more they like you. And the more they like you, the more likely they are to do what you want them to do.
We tend to think of listening as a passive exercise, but it isn't. When you're really listening, you're also watching, calculating and responding to what you see and hear. Sit down some day and watch Oprah. I mean really watch Oprah - not the show, the woman. Keep your eye on her as she listens to her guests. She leans toward the speaker, her eyes on them as they tell a story. Her expression is in constant motion, changing in response to what she hears - her lips part and eyes widen in surprise, her hand comes up to press against her lips, she frowns in silent sympathy. And the more feedback she gives her guests, the more they give her.
Active listening is the key to encouraging open communication. When you actively respond to your conversational partner, you're silently flattering them by letting them know that you find them interesting.
Pay attention to the messages that you're sending when you listen to others. Make a point of making eye contact often - the best listeners make eye contact with the person that they're listening to approximately 80% of the time. If you're looking around the room or staring down at the table, you're saying that you're bored. Watch what your hands are doing. Are your fingers tapping? Bored again. Are you fidgeting and shifting in your chair? You've lost interest. If that's not the message that you want to send, then you need to alter the signals that you're using.