You will learn how to save time and money using this tip.
Steve, a Texas businessman who owns a design agency called my office. He had been in the audience three weeks earlier when I spoke to a group of business owners in Austin, Texas.
On the phone he said, “Me and my dad bought a ranch up in the hills. To get to our land we need a right of way across our neighbor’s land. For three years he has refused to give us the right of way.”
Steve explained how they had begged and cajoled the neighbor; reasoned with him; justified and rationalized their point of view. They pointed out to the neighbor how much they needed to get to their land and all they wanted was for the neighbor to be reasonable. At first, they hoped he would be. But no. Years had gone by. They had spent hours talking to him and still had no right of way.
What should they do?
What would you do?
In the past, in situations when I really wanted to be heard, I used to believe that I should speak first. I would arrive at a meeting thinking, “I have to speak right away because this is important.”
If someone else was droning on, I would become impatient. In fact, I wouldn’t hear a word of what was being said because I was so anxious to speak. I was certain that my information was essential to the group and they would agree if I could just get them to listen to me. I discovered that speaking first did not make an impact. It didn’t work.
Getting people to listen is a challenge. Getting them to hear you is a greater challenge. Most people are more interested in what they have to say than in what you have to tell them.
When I had hundreds of people reporting to me, I didn’t have time to cajole them into listening. But I needed them to listen. I tried dozens of approaches. Nothing worked.
After a long struggle, this is what I finally came up with: Let people empty their cups.
Let me explain: Imagine that you want to give me some fresh squeezed orange juice. However, my cup is full because it has been sitting on my desk for a while and it is filled with old, cold coffee. Before I can receive your orange juice, you have to let me empty my cup.
It is the same with information. If you want to tell me something important, I won’t be able to listen to you until after I have my say. Metaphorically, I have to make room in my cup for your information.
When you have something important to say, it is imperative to let others speak first. They will not listen to you until they have “emptied their cups” by getting their own concerns off their chests.
When Steve, the Texas businessman called, he said, “After I heard your speech, I called my dad and said, ‘Come on, we are going up there and let that guy empty his cup.”
Father and son drove to the ranch. On the way, the son advised his dad, “No matter what he says, let him yak. Please don’t butt in. Let him chew the fat as long as he wants to. We’ll just sit and listen.”
They arrived at the house, settled onto the neighbor’s couch and without prompting the old rancher started talking. He told stories of the land, how his family had settled there and what had happened to them. For three hours he told his tales while the father and son sat listening.
When the old rancher finally stopped talking, they asked for the right of way. Immediately, he granted it.
The businessman exclaimed, “For three years we had been telling him why we needed it, but we never convinced him. Three hours of listening and he gave us what we wanted!”
When you have something important to say, don’t say it right away. Hold back. If you listen first, you will let people “empty their cups.” Then, when it is your turn to speak, they will be able to take in your information.