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This article was published on February 11, 2021

Speak less, communicate better

More communication, fewer words

Speak less, communicate better
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

Boris is the wise ol’ CEO of TNW who writes a weekly column on everything about being an entrepreneur in tech — from managing stress to embracing awkwardness. You can get his musings straight to your inbox by signing up for his newsletter!

When we think about communicating more, most of us imagine it’s about talking more. But communication is really about exchanging information — that includes receiving it. You can’t listen when you’re talking, or as Larry King once put it: “I never learned anything while I was talking.”

Despite this, most conversations are composed of two people just waiting for their own turn to speak. Now before you start thinking I’m putting myself on a high horse… I’m definitely guilty of talking too much. Sometimes I come home from an amazing meeting, only to realize I was way too excited and eager to tell my stories that I didn’t let the other person speak

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But this isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s just that the real master of that meeting wasn’t me — it was the other person.

[Read: What I learned from skills I no longer need]

If you want to please someone, all you have to do is encourage them to tell their stories. If you walk out of a meeting having said nothing, and the other person did ALL the talking, they will feel great about meeting you and remember it as an amazing conversation.

The best part though is that YOU will actually have had an interesting conversation. Not speaking will force you to listen, and when you listen, you will learn.

But how do you strike up a meaningful conversation with someone you might not know that well? A father of a friend of mine used to be an airline CEO. Whenever he traveled, he’d always chat up the people he sat next to. He had this great line that’s been a favorite of mine ever since I heard it: “I already know all my own stories, so let’s talk about you.”

It’s a rare thing to meet people who are genuinely interested in you and are willing to really listen to what you have to say. Honestly, you might as well wish for a unicorn.

So for your next conversation, I challenge you to conduct a little experiment: be that magical creature. Find an excuse to not talk. Any at all!

Say you are tired of your own stories and want to hear theirs, or tell them your throat is sore from an intense evening of living room karaoke. Do everything in your power to encourage them to speak more, give their stories space, revel in what excites them, sit back and see what happens.

My bet is that you’ll learn something, and you’ll delight someone.

Can’t get enough of Boris? Check out his older stories here, and sign up for his newsletter here.

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