Stop Talking, Ask Questions and Start Listening

Banks and credit unions have been bombarded by the gospel of online social networking. These financial institutions listen to a nonstop stream of social media gurus espousing the need to “join the conversation,” so they rush out and dutifully launch Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. Then what do they hear?

Nothing. No comments. No views. No followers. No fans. No likes.

Cricket… Cricket…

“Why,” they wonder, “doesn’t anyone care about us? Why doesn’t anyone care what we have to say?”

Well for starters, many financial institutions seem to misconstrue cries to “join the conversation” as “jump in and start blabbing.” Maybe no one is listening because financial institutions spend most of their time talking about things that don’t interest people (hint: regurgitated newsletter fare).

Reality Check: People aren’t interested in listening to you talk…about you. If you want to see someone’s eyes light up, ask them questions and encourage them talk about things that interest them — namely themselves, their experiences, their questions and their concerns.

Asking questions is one good way to start a conversation. “What’s important to you?” “What do you think?” “What questions do you have that you would like me to answer?” This is part of the doctrine that helped make Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” one of the biggest best-sellers of all time. Among the many principles Carnegie lays out is his book:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.
  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
  • Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  • Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  • Begin in a friendly way.
  • Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.
  • Let the other person do the talking.
  • Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.
  • Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Sympathize with the other person.
  • Ask questions instead of directly giving orders.

Reality Check: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” was published in 1937, yet its lessons still resonate vibrantly today. It has sold 15 million copies.

Online or off, it’s a lot easier to “listen” and “engage in conversation” when the other person has something to say. If you’re looking for a Twitter or Facebook strategy, or some sort of social media policy, Carnegie’s book is a great place to start. Just be ready to hear both the good and the bad…and respond appropriately.

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