The concept is indisputable – if you want to make better decisions, you need to have better information. I hate clichés, but information really is power, and if you want to make smarter decisions, you must develop good sources of intel. This means that once you have found the people that possess the knowledge you need, you then have to set the conditions for them to willingly offer it to you. Since water boarding is not an option, you have to start by establishing a good rapport with the person so that they don’t feel threatened. There is no better way to make that person feel comfortable than to do things that play to his strengths.
The same way that we can identify the patterns that people set regarding their behavior, we can also establish patterns to better understand what makes people feel comfortable talking. This way we can keep them talking and get all of the information we need to make a better-informed decision.
I thought of this today while talking with Chris Dessi, the CEO of Silverback Social. Chris is the prototypical “teacher” type, which is one of the main personality types I look for when I need to get someone talking.
The “teacher” is a person who believes that the greatest asset they can offer the world is the knowledge and experience they have accumulated throughout their life. Being typically unselfish, they want to pass everything that they have learned on to others, so that they don’t have to make the same mistakes or endure the same hardships that they did. They are likely operating towards the higher end of Maslow’s Pyramid of Motivation, and they likely truly enjoy helping others. Don’t restrict yourself to only considering academic types who fit this mold because of the title “teacher,” but also look at people considered experts in their field. Many experts enjoy talking about what they do for a living because it is their passion, and they jump at the chance to convey their love for a topic on to those who appear open to learning. Because Chris’s business model embraces the education of the customer, and has helped companies like the NHL and GEICO set up their social media platforms, there was no question in my mind that Chris fit the “expert” and “teacher” roles. That is the best way to get teacher types to open up to you. Simply ask them to teach you.
Teachers need students, so play up the role as the naïve, yet eager pupil. Show an interest in what they are talking about, demonstrate that you are a quick learner and make them believe that you can apply what they are telling you. Throw in clear indicators from the Interested Cluster and add a few well-timed questions asking them to elaborate on something they said, showing that you not only comprehend what they are saying but also possess the ability to quickly relate it directly to your life and situation.
Don’t over do it though. If they think they are being patronized or that the information is beyond you, they could easily close up or change the topic. You will know you were right when you hear the person say something like Chris did, “I’m sorry, I feel like I’m doing all the talking.” Not only is the fact that they are doing the talking a good thing, when they acknowledge it, it also provides the opportunity for another question, and let me learn more about Search Engine Optimization.
Other than those questions, though, don’t forget the most important aspect of learning – SHUT UP! For them to give you the information that they have, they need to be the ones talking, not you. Stop interrupting and let them do the work. To make better decisions you need better information. The six profiling domains will help you find the people that have the knowledge you are after, but make sure that you take into consideration the techniques that will get that person to open up. This is the second step, which will really yield results.
The “teacher” type is one that I keep my eye out for and learning how this conversational pattern makes someone feel comfortable can greatly help in your pursuit of sound intelligence. This can often be an effective approach when you are first learning about a topic and still don’t know what you don’t know, which was the premise for my meeting this morning. The teacher can be a great source of information because they are generally looking out for your best interest. Showing that you have taken their advice seriously can keep people like Chris eager to support you.
Try this approach on someone over the weekend and figure out how it fits into your normal conversational style. As you become more comfortable using it, you will find the incredible amount of information you can gain by playing to the strengths of the people with the information you need.