A few days ago, I had a one-on-one lunch with my mentor. During our lunch we were talking about leadership and charisma skills and I asked him what he thought was the fastest way to improve charisma for someone who was afraid of talking in fear of being judged or not accepted?
Without pause, he immediately gave me some of the best advice I had ever heard. “Listen.”
I said, “Well, yeah- they are listening because they are afraid of talking.” To which he responded that if you truly listen to what someone is saying, you’ll know what to say back to them to keep the conversation going. Great leaders are excellent at listening.
Keep the spotlight on the other person by continuing to ask them about themselves. It will show that you are intrigued and genuinely interested in that person, to which they will think, “Wow, they really care about what I’m saying and want to get to know me.”
This will make them begin to like you and trust you, deepening the type of information they will reveal about themselves to you, furthering your connection with this person.
We all love to talk about ourselves- it makes us feel validated and important. We like to talk about things we’ve accomplished our exciting things we’re going to be doing.
Not only does this make them like and trust you more, but it keeps you from having to open up about yourself and be in the spotlight.
A few hours later, I saw him do exactly this. We were leaving the restaurant that we were at and we ran into someone that he just started working with. This person immediately started asking my mentor questions.
And then I saw it happen like a switch. My mentor asked him how his family was doing, and when his co-worker replied with a vague response, my mentor pressed on. How are your kids? How did their basketball game go the other night? And your wife, is she getting ready for your daughter to take off for college? How’s your mom doing after her hip surgery?
He kept going on, asking questions showing his interest in his coworker and how his family was doing. Afterwards, I applauded him and asked how he was able to remember all of that information about a coworker he didn’t really know that well.
He said he would listen to the things they would say in meetings, before meetings, in the break room to everyone and just keep a mental note. He had a mental framework that he used to be able to talk to anyone at any point in time. He could use it for strangers, people he just met, acquaintances, long term relationships, co-workers, his boss. The list goes on. And his framework, which he coined as FORGE, goes like this:
Family – partner, kids, parents, grandparents, in-laws, etc.
Occupation – duties, new role, old role, new coworkers, boss, big changes, etc.
Recreation – what do they like to do for fun?
Goals – what are their goals in life and work?
Environment – what is going on around them, in the world, did something interesting just happen, etc.?
He said he could bounce through those 5 topics and be able to hold the conversation for as long as needed. And the fact that he could use it for anyone at any time made it invaluable. He would go through this mental framework, ask a question, and then listen to what the person was saying. He’d truly listen, make a mental note and then be able to talk to them about it the next time he saw them.