There are a handful of qualities that consistently give you stand out status. Doesn't matter how smart or talented or attractive you are-universally, these attributes can make you the kind of person that other people want to know, work with and do business with. One such quality I call "Ask, don't tell."
This can be a transformational strategy. Keep this amazing irony in mind: People will like you more, think you're smarter, savvier, nicer and more interesting if you show interest in them. If you can believe and actually act upon the half-tongue-in-cheek saying, "It's not all about you," you will find your interactions will be much more rewarding and results-oriented. The ability to show interest, concern, and a sort of wide-eyed wonder in others is the kind of skill that will win friends, build trust, and make people think positively and warmly about you.
The primary way you can express this interest is to learn to ask questions.
My favorite story that exemplifies the power of this strategy is about a young Latina woman who went to work for a big corporation. Although she spoke excellent English, she was still very intimidated by the American workplace culture. She wanted to impress her new employer, but found it challenging while reading, writing and talking in her second language. She came to me for help. She wanted to know how she could improve her image, not come across as "stupid" or clueless in the workplace, speed up her learning curve and be able to confidently do her job. I told her I could sum up the best, most powerful advice in two words: "Ask questions."
With this simple, but potent, strategy, she could first, show her boss and co-workers that she was very interested in learning everything she could -- employers like that attitude. Secondly, she would not come across as "stupid." In fact, her interest and inquiries about everything would actually endear her to her colleagues. People love to talk about what they know, to share their knowledge, to "help" others understand. By giving her associates that opportunity, she would create allies and confidantes. And, finally, she would actually gain valuable knowledge, which would speed up her learning curve!
The last I heard from this young woman, she had been promoted twice within her first year at this company. She praised my strategy to high heavens. She said it took pressure off of her to feel she had to impress everyone with what she knew and instead allowed her to impress them with her interest in what they did.
So learn to be a good question-asker, whether it's to clients or prospects or associates or the boss. Ask them not just about work issues, but also show interest in them personally-their job, family, interests-in a sincere way that shows you are genuinely interested in learning more. This is best accomplished, of course, with open-ended questions, not closed. (A closed question requires a one-word answer: "Did you have a nice weekend?" An open-ended question invites elaboration: "So what did you do this weekend?") Resist the temptation to interrupt someone's story, or dominate a conversation, or play "I can top that" responses. Give the other person room to talk, express, expound. Here's the irony. The more you give him the "floor," the more wonderful he'll think you are. We all love people who seem to like us!
Then, by the way, be a good listener when they answer! Respond appropriately, be fascinated with what they have to say. People will think you're wonderful if you act as if they're wonderful. Remember, no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care. This ability to ask questions and show interest effectively conveys that caring.