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How to Talk So People Listen: The Real Key to Job Success

How to Talk So People Listen: The Real Key to Job Success

4.6 3
by Sonya Hamlin

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At a time when it's harder than ever to get and keep people's attention, we could all use some help. Enter Sonya Hamlin, author of the now classic How to Talk So People Listen (1988), and one of the country's leading communication experts. In this revised and updated edition, Sonya Hamlin, arguably America's leading communication expert, shows us how to


At a time when it's harder than ever to get and keep people's attention, we could all use some help. Enter Sonya Hamlin, author of the now classic How to Talk So People Listen (1988), and one of the country's leading communication experts. In this revised and updated edition, Sonya Hamlin, arguably America's leading communication expert, shows us how to successfully capture people's attention so that they listen, understand, and are persuaded by your message –– especially in the plugged–in, fast–paced, visually–driven atmosphere that is today's workplace.

Whether making a presentation to a large audience or dealing one–on–one with a client or colleague, or communicating by E–mail, Hamlin teaches us that one of the keys to making people listen is to think about and respond to what motivates them – namely, self–interest. She then provides tools to assess others' self–interest and use it to get them to listen to your message. Hamlin also explains how to capitalize on the latest visual aids we have at our disposal today. We learn to determine what information needs or lends itself to visual presentation, and how to make visuals active, so that they serve as an extension of the speaker. In How To Talk So People Listen, you'll also find practical information on how to understand your audience, how to encourage your listeners to trust you, and how to be yourself when you're on the podium.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Hamlin, a TV talk-show host, offers a welcome revision to her 1988 book of the same name. Much has changed in 17 years, and she provides thought-provoking insights and workable solutions to communicating with others in a changing world. Hamlin highlights challenges like understanding the generations, integrating a multicultural workforce, and communicating effectively in an impatient, visually driven society. She also offers techniques, both graphic and verbal, for reaching a given audience. Her chapter on handling one-on-one encounters is particularly helpful for both managers and subordinates. This book packs a lot of pertinent information on a practical topic. Highly recommended. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Read an Excerpt

How to Talk So People Listen

Connecting in Today's Workplace
By Sonya Hamlin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Sonya Hamlin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006073406X

Chapter One

Enter Technology, Exit Talking

What's New in Communicating

Everything -- and I'm about to tell you about it. But the absolute core of great communicating hasn't changed at all.

It's not about you and your skills.

It's not about your subject.

It all starts from this basic principle:

Know Your Audience!

Talking so others listen starts with understanding those others, first! Then basing any presentation, one-on-one encounter, meeting, or negotiation on what the audience wants, needs, and cares about.

Now, this audience orientation comes in two flavors.

  1. What you should know about any specific audience you're going to talk to so you can adapt your approach each time
  2. and

  3. What basic facts you should know about any audience you're communicating with today to learn how they listen now.

In order to build a great repertoire for you as super-communicator, you need to learn these two approaches. They are the foundation for building any kind of communication, especially at work.

What You Need to Know First

The rest of the book will show you how to analyze any specific audience and what techniques to use to reach them. But we must begin, in the first two chapters, with the same basics -- truths that exist now for all the audiences you'll talk to.

Understanding what's happened to us as a society and how we've changed our communication with each other -- this is a cornerstone for building successful communication on any level today. Another is understanding more about the disparate groups in today's workplace and what they each need. You'll be surprised by lots of this, recognize yourself, and say "never thought about that," about others.

So let's begin gaining some perspective on where we are now, to give you a base for going forward and learning the new skills I'll show you. Let's now discover:

  • How we currently listen and learn, and where talking still fits in
  • What motivates us to listen; what's important
  • What else is happening in the workplace that affects how you'll communicate with each other successfully
What's New In The Twenty-First Century

Let's start with how we communicate with each other. Wow, has that changed in recent years!

To really nail this, here's an email I got recently that says it all:

You know you're living in 2005, when . . .

  1. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.

  2. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

  3. You email the person who works at the desk next to you.

  4. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have email addresses.

  5. You make phone calls from home and accidentally dial 9 to get an outside line.

  6. You've sat at the same desk for four years and worked for three different companies!!

  7. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.

  8. Every commercial on television has a website at the bottom of the screen.

  9. Leaving the house without your cell phone is now a cause for panic.

  10. You get up in the morning and go online before getting your coffee.


See what we have to work with, or against, when we want to talk so people listen?

Well, let's get started finding out the kind of work we have to do to make this happen.

Even Hello Has Changed

Just take how we greet each other -- that "Hello, I'm Sonya Hamlin" thing I did at the beginning of the book. That's how we usually do it when we meet someone, isn't it? Picture a typical first encounter and what goes with it.

the look
the name
the handshake
the smile
the noticing
the visceral response
the face-to-face human contact

That opening moment helps us evaluate and decide at what level to relate and, most of all, how we instinctively feel and respond to the other person. Personal contact has always been the number one way we start any relationship.

But is it, anymore?

We now live in a world where online meeting and greeting and email and text-messaged "conversations" -- with no sound, touch, feel, sight, or smell -- are substituting for the old in-person ways. We're trading senses for technology. Today's standards are speed and ease, not human contact and personal perception.

Is that good? Bad? Costly? As effective as the old way? Can we really totally eliminate the old way?

That look-in-your-eyes-to-see-if-I-really-trust-you way?

That notice-how-shifty-he-looks, why-can't-she-stand-still way?

That what-a-warm-smile, how-nice-this-feels way?

That's today's communication dilemma, and the issues we now need to deal with are:

  • How recent advances have affected how we now communicate and how we get to know each other
  • What else we need to do now to sell and persuade, to develop trust and confidence, and to explain and be understood

The Biggest Issue

We're incredibly more efficient now. We can do just about anything business requires -- worldwide -- by just hitting the keyboard, sending email and searching the Web.

Except . . .

Except the ultimate: selling ourselves.

That means the ability to convince

  • Potential customers
  • Fellow workers
  • Upper management
  • The people in power

about the validity and trustworthiness of your ideas, your plan, your product, your abilities -- yourself.

Would anyone hire you simply because you send in a great resume complete with PowerPoint diagrams and pictures of ads and ideas you created? Would you hire someone on that basis?

In order to close any deal, people want to know "Who am I dealing with?" "Can I trust him?" " Would I like to work with her?" "Do I want this person to represent my company?" "Does she seem quick on the draw?"

Can any of that ever be decided by email? Doesn't it always need the old face-to-face, every time?


Excerpted from How to Talk So People Listen by Sonya Hamlin Copyright © 2006 by Sonya Hamlin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Sonya Hamlin, an award-winning television talk-show host, consults and coaches America's Fortune 100 companies and executives including JPMorgan Chase, American Express, IBM, Lehman Brothers, Bayer Corporation, and ExxonMobil. She has taught at Oxford, the Harvard Law School, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the MIT Sloan School of Management. Hamlin appears on network television as a communications expert and analyst and is the author of the best-selling What Makes Juries Listen TODAY.

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