Saturday, September 19, 2009

Negotiation: Eloquence Does Not Equal Effectiveness

Most often, I like to write about developments in the entertainment business and the likely implications for members of that industry. But every once in a while, I feel compelled to share something I've learned in the course of my work day. Usually the lessons are not new, but have only been forgotten. I figure sometimes all of us can use a reminder.

Recently, I have been reminded that effective communication is really not a function of vocabulary, or even intelligence. In order to find the right words to bring the other side around to your way of thinking, you need to really understand the person on the other side. There is only one good way to do that -- by listening closely to what's being said.

My fresh perspective on this important insight has come to me in a book I am currently reading -- Just Listen by my friend and mentor, Dr. Mark Goulston. Those of you who have had the pleasure of spending any time with Mark know that he has a stunning ability to condense complex information to its simplest and most powerful form. He redefines the concept of getting to the "heart of the matter."

Mark's most recent work is no exception. In his concise, direct manner, he reminds us that we can't get what we want unless we truly understand the person who has the power to give it to us. It is not a matter of knowing a lot of large, impressive words to say, but instead choosing the right words for each situation. And the only way to find those words is by listening closely to the person you need to convince.

Sometimes it seems that lawyers think they are getting paid by the word. Many of my colleagues have developed the habit of using hundreds of words where perhaps a dozen well-chosen words would have had more impact and yielded better results. Thankfully, Mark has reminded me not to fall into that habit. I get paid to communicate on my clients' behalf and get consistently great results. That's my job. And I can only be good at my job if I pay close attention to what the other side is telling me.

This is a lesson for all of us, in every aspect of our lives. Listen first, talk second. If you can't find the right words, then listen some more. A brilliant solution generally comes to us not from thought and analysis, but from truly understanding the problem. There's only one way to do that -- get more information. Listen.

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