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How to get people to listen and take advice...

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5 simple techniques to get clients/colleagues to listen you....

How often have you heard people say, “why does not (put name in here) just listen” or “if only the xxxxxx team would listen to us”?

You are not alone, most people can provide examples where if their friends or colleagues had listened to them, the team/project/company would have performed better or not made the mistakes that cost them thousands or in some cases, millions of pounds or dollars.

So, why don’t people listen when good advice is being given?

Research has tended to focus on the advisor's (sales person etc.) emotions and behaviours, but more recent research has focused on the emotional states of people when receiving advice and how emotions play a role in people taking advice.

In which emotional state are people more likely to take the advice of someone?

When are they least likely to do so?

A recent study led by University of Amsterdam researcher Ilona de Hooge found out that advice taking is affected by what the person is feeling and whether it is directed towards oneself or towards others.

de Hooge and her team ran five experiments with up to 120 participants being engaged in tasks that were designed to induce positive or negative emotions.

In the first experiment, for example, the participants either became grateful to advice-giving co-participants (who were actually confederates) for solving a tough problem, or felt anger because they didn’t solve it.

A second task then measured how likely that the (real) participants would take advice from their co-participants (the confederates), based on the latters' performance and the participants’ feelings towards them.

In the second experiment, the emotions (either pride or shame) were induced inwards in participants, by the announcement of the participants' test results to a group of fictional participants.

Again, a follow-up task measured how their emotional state affected their tendency to accept advice from others.

The results of the experiments showed that positive emotions, when directed towards someone else who is seen to be reliable and trustworthy, encouraged people to take the advice of others. Negative emotions towards other people, however, discouraged advice-taking.

On the other hand, when emotions are directed inwards (e.g. shame or pride), the opposite effect was found. Negative emotions encouraged people to take the advice of others more than positive emotions. Indeed, it makes sense.

When people feel bad about themselves, they look more to others for guidance. And when they are angry at someone, they won’t take that person’s advice, no matter how good it may be.

In subsequent experiments, when emotions were no longer associated with the true capability of the co-participant, and when the decision task was expanded to include an estimate task, the results were the same: people are more likely to take advice from others when there’s gratitude or feelings of shame, and less likely if there’s anger or pride for one’s accomplishment.

The EBW View  

The study points to the importance of using your Emotional Intelligence to understand and manage the emotional state of people, if you want them to listen and take on board your advice. 

Whilst understanding others is not always easy, there are some simple techniques we can use to help manage our relationships so when we offer advice it is more likely to be accepted. Here are our top five techniques:

  1. Use mirroring
    People like people who talk and behave in same way as they do. They feel immediately connected when they hear themselves reflected in another person. Psychologists call it “mirroring”. Whilst we not suggesting you should mimic the accent and behaviour of the person you are talking to as that would probably be a little bit 'creepy'. However, if you can subtly match some of the emotions, intonation and behaviour of the person you want to listen to you, research suggests you will make them feel more confident in what you are saying. 

  2. Use emotional words.
    Use words that convey emotion to trigger excitement. Let your enthusiasm show. Don’t let anyone tell you it is unprofessional to be passionate or enthusiastic. Emotional words make emotional connections, and to position yourself as a “trusted advisor” authentic emotion counts.

  3. Create a mental picture in the person’s mind. 
    Help the person see the positive results they’ll get when they take your advice by using language and images that create a mental picture. When a person can “picture” good results, you stimulate them to want to take the advice.

  4. Use stories and anecdotes.
    No matter their age or background, listeners are engaged by stories. Everyone loves a story and better yet, they connect emotionally with the story teller.

  5. Convey warmth and energy–and smile often.
    Warmth is contagious. Energy is engaging. Smiles beget smiles in response. Inject warmth and energy into your conversation and watch people warm up and become enthusiastic too. They’ll be more interested in what you have to say and more eager to follow your advice and that’s precisely what you want.

If you start using these simple actions you will see a big difference in the way people react and listen to you.

For clarity, we are not saying that understanding peoples’ emotional state is simply about using these techniques. It is difficult to be able to appreciate the changes in other peoples' emotions and manage the relationship so they feel comfortable listening to you.

But if you are in a role where is is important that people listen and take your advice, then de Hooge's research suggests you should start developing your Business Emotional Intelligence today so you can maximise your engagement with others.

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Based on over 20 years of worldwide use and research, it enables you to get leaders and teams to understand why they behave the way they do and use a highly effective 10 step framework to improve their occupational performance.

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