I was talking to a colleague when I realised that in our five minute conversation, it had all been about me.
All me, me, me. What I had done. What I thought. My challenges. My week. My day. My job. If they said something, I managed to bring it back to - you guessed it - me! The moment I realised this, I was so embarrassed. I was being one of "those" people.
Right then in that moment, I came up with my five questions rule, which has served me well since. It's pretty simple, in fact, very simple! And yet, it is also very, very effective. Let me share:
When you notice yourself doing all the talking, simply ask five questions before you say anything about yourself. It works in any situation - at work, at home, in formal meetings, in casual conversations. The upcoming Xmas party is a great time to practice :-)
Let me give you some examples. You're talking to someone and they are telling you about a conference that you also went to. If you're like me, your first instinct is to jump in and talk about your experience. Stop right there.
Instead, here is your chance to ask five questions..... who was your favourite speaker?.... what was your key takeaway?.... did you learn anything surprising?.... would you recommend it to others?.... do you have any other conferences planned?
The great news for us talkers, is that often after question three or four, the conversation will naturally steer to you. They will ask you a question.
The intent of this tool is not to stick to it rigidly, but as a reminder to focus on asking questions rather than doing all the talking. Realise that it may feel a bit weird at first when you are trying it, but other than that, weave it into your natural style.
This isn't a tool that you need to use for every conversation. Doing so might make you seem a bit strange ;-). However whenever you get that feeling that you are doing all the talking, roll out the five question rule.
This isn't just a feel nice trick either. Listening is rated as one of the most important leadership skill. Listening requires ears that are open, and a mouth that is shut. This one simple technique will get you on the way to being a better listener, simply by increasing your ratio of listening / talking. Listening is also an important aspect of empathy and emotional intelligence.
When you spend more time listening, you appear more approachable. When people know you are interested, you are more likely to hear the murmurs early before they turn into nasty surprises!
If you are looking for something that you can put into practice right now to improve your leadership, try the five question rule!