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Scott Eblin offers his take on lessons in the news and his advice on your pressing leadership questions.

How to Talk With People


This is one of those titles that when you read it, you might be saying, “Really?” Yes, really. There’s a big difference between talking to people and talking with people. If you’re the designated leader in your organization, that difference has a multiplier effect that can cut in either direction.

In a post a few weeks ago, I asked if you were a transmitter or a receiver. Transmitters talk to people. Receivers talk with people. Transmitters take the teaching stance. Receivers take the learning stance.

When you’re the leader, you end up leading a lot of conversations in which multiple people participate. Sometimes you need to transmit to get a point across. That’s talking to people. Most of the time, though, you’re going to want to set things up so you learn from people and they learn from each other. That requires talking with people.

As the leader, you’ll set the tone as to whether it’s a talking to or talking with conversation.

Here are three ways to improve your communication skills by talking with people when you’re the leader.

  • Ask open-ended questions. Yes or no questions put people on the defensive and shut down options. Ask open ended questions. The best ones start with the word, what.
  • Give your opinion last. If you go first, everyone else is likely to conform their input to yours.
  • Talk half as much. Remember that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

What are your favorite tips for having a talking with instead of a talking to conversation?

Executive coach Scott Eblin’s goal is to help you succeed at the next level of leadership. Throughout the week, he’ll offer his take on the leadership lessons in the news and his advice on your most pressing leadership questions. A former government executive, Scott is a graduate of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and is the author of The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Executive Success.

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