We recently had Dan and Kyle (of the Applied Influence Group) run some workshops at our offices. I really did take a lot from these sessions and I can't recommend them enough. If you want to learn how to better influence your key stakeholders, I strongly suggest you drop these guys a note.
The below piece in Forbes reminded me a lot of AIG's segment on Listening & Elicitation. They taught us about the different types of listening: scanning, opportunistic, pretend and active. Critically, they taught us some different techniques you can employ to elicit further information from the person you're conversing with.
Of these techniques, there are two that have since significantly helped me to get more information out of someone, and/or shift them from neutral into taking a desired action:
1. Reflective Comments
Dan likened the very concept of a conversation to a game of tennis. A turn-based activity where the participants' input will typically alternate in an 'A-B-A-B' fashion. When it's your turn, using a reflective comment can be a very effective way of 'taking your turn' pretty quickly and minimally, in a manner that elicits a much longer response (that often reveals more valuable information). In practice, this might equate to repeating two keywords (from their last sentence) that you want them to elaborate on. Repeat these with an inquisitive tone and they will invariably divulge further information.
2. Effective Silence
As a listening tactic, silence is paramount to afford the speaker enough opportunity to get their point across. In a negotiation, a well-timed, unwavering silence can be so powerful and often will have a direct impact on the outcome-quality of the deal. It's all-too tempting to concede and offer a less advantageous proposal during the silence, but owning it and holding your position can really pay dividends.
As you strive to master active listening, don’t underestimate the power of silence. When I’m nervous I tend to speak more and more quickly – not exactly a helpful strategy in negotiation. For example, I recently increased my prices for public speaking. Despite being very clear about my market value and knowing it was the appropriate time to raise my rates, the first time I quoted a client the new price, I immediately undermined myself. I told the client the price and didn’t even take a breath before adding, “But of course I can discount it” Be prepared to have uncomfortable silence, even if it means singing the ABCs in your head until your counterpart replies. If you keep talking, it lets them off the hook for responding to what you’ve said. Use silence to prompt your counterpart to speak.