3 October 2023

What I’ve Learned From a Decade of Talking and Listening

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Bruce Kasanoff passes on some of the advice he has gleaned from more than 10 years of interviews with accomplished professionals in a range of occupations.

I interview people for a living, and have conducted an average of about a dozen conversations a week for more than 10 years.

In most cases, I talk with the same clients — entrepreneurs, coaches and consultants — for many years running.

Here’s what I’m learning:

Most of the time, we already know the right thing to do; some of the time, we actually do it.

“What should I do?” is seldom the greatest challenge. The vast majority of intelligent people already know what they should be doing. The tough part is to actually do it.

We often have wildly conflicting goals, habits and needs. This makes it hard to do the ‘right’ thing because it requires more discipline, sacrifice, risk or inconvenience than we are willing to expend at this point.

Contrary to advice from business books or gurus, the best course of action seems to be to wait until you accumulate enough resolve to actually move forward.

In other words, when you’re ready, you’re ready. (Not before.)

Your network wants to come on your journey, not listen to your wisdom.

The natural tendency of most accomplished professionals is to share their lessons, but few of us enjoy listening to smart people sharing wisdom from the mountaintop.

It’s far better to share bits and pieces of your journey, including stumbles and falls as well as victories.

This, by the way, is one reason I chose the words “what I’m learning” earlier, rather than “my top lessons”.

Far and away, my clients generate the most engagement among their network when they share a genuine slice of their life.

Imperfection is attractive.

It’s ironic that many of us spend so much time trying to be good at everything, when the essence of building strong relationships with others is to be open about our imperfections.

The moment you admit your weaknesses and unmet needs, you open the door for other people to move closer.

They can use their talents and insights to help you, walk next to you and demonstrate their own abilities.

“I could use your help” are five of the most powerful words you can utter.

Be sure to ‘see’ other people.

After years of helping accomplished entrepreneurs, coaches and consultants communicate with the people who matter most to them, it is becoming apparent that the single best thing to strengthen relationships is to do a better job of ‘seeing’ other people.

It’s not enough to recognise that Dana is having a bad day or Victor is still nursing a cold.

The deeper your understanding of other people and their internal states, the greater the opportunities to bond deeply with them.

Like many people, I still have the habit of asking: “How are you today?” But then I dig deeper.

Why do you feel that way? What matters most to you, right now, this day, this week?

The vast majority of time, people are thrilled to be seen and heard — even those who initially brush off your attempts to go deeper.

It pays to be curious.

Curiosity is a superpower. It’s the difference between bored (or boring) people and those who are always engaged and engaging.

I am genuinely amazed by how curious my clients are, and their tremendous capacity to view the world around them with fresh eyes.

When you wake up each day eager to learn and grow, you are already 80 per cent of the way to a spectacular outcome.

*Bruce Kasanoff is the founder of The Journey, a newsletter for positive, uplifting and accomplished professionals. He is also an executive coach and social media ghostwriter for entrepreneurs. He can be contacted at kasanoff.com.

This article first appeared at kasanoff.com.

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