What’s my motivation?

My wife taught me this one. She uses it a lot in business meetings, but it works just as well in lectures, one-to-ones, or any other situation where we are listening to someone else speak.

The challenge is that most people will listen to what the other person has to say — and that’s all. Now, do’t get me wrong, we should definitely have our ears open to the content of the other person’s discourse. To be truly great networkers, though, we need to go beyond just the words and listen for the reasons behind what they are saying, because that’s where the real person lives.

So, they’re telling us about a new product that their company is marketing. Great! This is good information. Now, why are they telling us about this? Are they trying to understand their target market? Do they need reassurance that the product is valuable? Are they looking for a referral? For what? Are they looking for clients or business partners? Do they need an introduction to someone who can help out in any of these areas?

Of course, since we aren’t The Amazing Kreskin, we should go beyond attempting just to intuit their underlying motivation. Instead we should actually question them about it. If we think they are trying to hash out their target market, we might be able to help them along by just asking who would benefit from such a product or to whom they would prefer to sell it. If we think they are looking for reassurance, we might ask about people who love the product already.

If we show a level of interest beyond simply information gathering — if we ask about more than the product — then they will know that we care about them and their success. We are genuinely interested in them and aren’t merely waiting for them to stop talking.

And when we show that level of care, we shouldn’t be surprised when they respond with a similar level of interest and respect.

Photo credit: Flickr user photogirl7.1