Next time you find yourself in a situation where you feel you need to defend your position in a conversation, or perhaps you are dealing with a difficult person with a strong personality or it could even be as simple as deciding where to have dinner with your spouse, you have choices in how you handle the conversation.  No, I don’t mean choices of burritos or French fine dining I mean choices how you talk, reason, negotiate and ideally get a favorable outcome.

You could try and strong-arm your way through providing data, results and reasoning, logic, reviews and endless other information why your way is the best way.  This can sometimes work of course, or it could sometimes place your opponent on the defense and cause work for yourself or loss of the conversation.  We all know somebody in our lives who talks and talks and tries to convince us of something and sometimes eventually we wish they would just stop talking!  Is this the best way to get the job done?  Some people don’t know any other way.  Wearing people down and into submission to get your way may work but is that the best way?  Is that really gaining you any points anyplace?  Let’s introduce some soft skills.  Some people skills!

What if you ‘steer’ the conversation your way.  This can be done by asking questions.  We all know the old saying ‘whoever asks the questions controls the conversation.”  By asking questions and listening you have the ability to get your opponent to agree or at least consider agreeing with your idea or stance in the conversation.  That’s right, let somebody else do the talking!  Asking questions to accomplish our goal is not that easy at first, at least it wasn’t for me anyways.  It takes practice and it can be surprisingly effective!

We all know someone in our lives who is let’s say … magnetic.  They have a magnetic personality that you and many others enjoy talking with them and spending time with them.  Why is that?  It’s often because the other person takes a TRUE interest in YOUR life!  They ask about you, your family, your career, your goals, your vacation and so many other questions about yourself.  Hint: people love talking about themselves (although some personality types do not, we’ll maybe cover that another time) as this happens you have the chance to win them over.  You may be thinking that you already do this, well that is great.  I bet there is room for improvement.  Lets take this to the next level with dealing with a difficult person or perhaps an irate customer.  If you think you can win them over by giving them stats about your customer service numbers or by telling them what to do will calm them down then good luck!  Asking questions in combination to listening is a great way to deal with difficult people.

So, how can this translate to business then?  Many, many ways.  Better customer satisfaction, if you’re in sales (and we all are) you’ll be better as your customers tell you what they want and need if you’re listening and asking.  Who do you think the best negotiators are?  That’s right, the people who steer the conversation.  Talking to your employees, if you take an interest in their life and the opinion wouldn’t they feel more valued and appreciated?  The last I checked that costs you nothing and increases employee satisfaction.  The list can goes on and on.

Give it a try, ask questions.  What have you got to lose?