This post was written by Amy Fenollosa, Director of Learning at The Latimer Group.
Have you seen the short celebrity interviews at the end of the New York Times Magazine on Sundays? Ana Marie Cox is wrapping up her tenure as the Talk columnist and she spoke about the essence of conducting a good interview:
“You don’t have to be able to ask… great questions. You need patience and humility.”
Patience and humility. Our approach to persuasive communication emphasizes the importance of audience awareness. What better way to understand a large audience than by getting to know the individuals who will be in the room? Spend time with them to learn more about who they are and what is important to them. Start by asking questions. And recognize it takes more than simply asking questions. To really learn, you need to listen actively. Think of the interviewing strategy that Ana Marie used at the Times. She was able to learn people’s stories by practicing patience and humility.
In our highly scheduled, jam-packed days, it may seem counter-intuitive to pause and think about patience. But imagine the insight you’ll glean if you take a little extra time, listen thoughtfully, and allow people to gradually reveal their stories? You’ll learn their perspective and their priorities. You’ll begin to appreciate the distinctions among audience members, their unique concerns, and their decision-making priorities. That information will help you prepare the best message for the circumstance and the audience.
What about humility? In our corporate world, we see it all too infrequently. Recently a participant in one of my classes introduced me to a new definition of humility: “It’s not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less.” So if we each pause, and put the emphasis on others, we can continue to learn, we can inform our communication, and be more effective communicators and leaders.
Audience understanding will always be critical to powerful communication. Think of the lessons from a journalist and imagine how much more effective our communication will be if we practice patience and humility in our listening.