July 28, 2005

Excerpts: 25 Ways to Win with People - Part V

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 1:25 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture


There are so many good reasons to learn a persons story. Here are just a few that keep motivating me to continue this prac- tice with others:

Requesting a persons story says, "You could be special."

Remembering a persons story says, "You are special."

Reminding a person of his or her story says, "You are spe- cial to me."

Repeating a persons story to others says, "You should be special to them."

The result? You become special to the person who shared a story with you.

There are really just three small steps when it comes to embracing this practice in order to win with people. The key is to cultivate the habit of actually taking these steps with the people in your life.

1. ASK

When you meet someone new, after the introductions and initial pleasantries, dont hesitate. Dive in and ask to hear the persons story. You can do it any number of ways: you can flat-out ask, "Whats your story?" You can request that he tell you about himself. You can ask where he is from or how he got into the field hes in. Use your own style.

If youve never tried this kind of thing before and you worry that it might be awkward the first few times you do it, then practice with people you are unlikely to see againthe driver in a cab, a passenger on a plane, a waitress in a restau- rant. Once you become comfortable asking questions of total strangers, the rest will be easy.


Years ago I came across a list of suggestions for good lis- tening. (I think I clipped it from Bits and Pieces.) Here were some of the tips:
  • Look the speaker in the eye.
  • Be attentivedont roll your eyes or grimace when you hear something you dont agree with.
  • Dont interrupttry phrases like "Go on" or "I see" instead of "Now, that reminds me . . ."
  • Tell the speaker what you think you heard; begin by say- ing, "Let me see if I understand . . ."

The main idea is to really focus on the other person. The problem many people have is that while the other person speaks, they are thinking more about what they want to say when its their turn instead of focusing on listening. When you give people your undivided attention, then you are in a better position to achieve the next step.


Some people have a knack for numbers, others for names or faces. But just about everyone has the capacity to remem- ber stories. Small children remember them. And stories have been recited and sung from memory for thousands of years. Even long stories, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey believed to have been created nearly three thousand years agowere sung for three centuries before being written down. Stories stay with us.

A couple of years ago, the conference department at Injoy received a letter from Ellis Brust, formerly of St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, that tells the power of remem- bering a persons story. Heres what it said:

One of my leaders in the church has just opened a fran- chise fast-food place in the small East Texas town of Gilmer. He is in business with two other men in the church and they are committed to running the business with sound Christian principles. I took him to hear John three or four years ago and he recalled Johns Nordstroms stories [about how their employees go the extra mile]. He has tried to train his employees using these principles.

On the first week of operation, he overheard two lit- tle old ladies talking about the soft drink selection and one of them was disappointed that there was no Diet Dr. Pepper offered. He spoke with the woman who was dia- betic and preferred Diet Dr. Pepper to other diet drinks. He got in his car, drove to the 7-11, purchased a six-pack of Diet Dr. Pepper, took the woman a cup of ice and a can of the drink. He told her that there would always be a case of Diet Dr. Pepper in the refrigerator with her name on it, and she just needed to tell the person at the counter who she was and what her beverage preference was and she would get it.

The shocked woman said, Young man, I have been in this town my whole life. I have many influential friends and they will all hear what you just did for me. Thank you, and we will be regular customers.

I thought you would want to know one small way your work is changing lives. Keep up the good work.

Was what the restaurant owner did a big deal? Did it change the ladys life? No. In fact, we dont know if he ever talked to her again or learned anything else about her story. But he made her feel special, and it served her well. If we care about people, really listen to them, and try to remember their stories, we can make an impact on them. And we can make them feel like a million bucks.