How to Make People Die to Talk to You

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The silent superpower no one talks about

Is it necessary to be loud to make real noise? Most people believe so — we tend to associate good leadership with extroverted personalities. Even though it’s not true.

Consider this quote by Peter Drucker,

“The one and only personality trait the effective [leaders] I have encountered did have in common was something they did not have: they had little or no ‘charisma’ and little use either for the term or what it signifies.”

According to Drucker, effective leaders didn’t chase ‘charisma’. Because there’s more to leadership than that.

Nevertheless, the world has trained us to believe otherwise. When I was young, one of the kids in my class was eye candy for girls. He spoke a lot — with his mouth and with his possessions. Teachers too cared a lot about ‘class participation’ — something I was not good at even though I excelled in the assignments.

Naturally, this leaves behind all introverted kids like me. “Does it always have to be so?”, I thought.

Not at all.

Let’s take one of the most extroverted professions in the world — politics

A soft-spoken, introverted politician seems like an oxymoron. But take Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States,

He [Truman] didn’t have an ounce of charisma. Truman was as bland as a dead mackerel. Everybody who worked for him worshiped him because he was absolutely trustworthy. If Truman said no, it was no, and if he said yes, it was yes. And he didn’t say no to one person and yes to the next one on the same issue — Rich Karlgaard, Forbes

To test this hypothesis further, I started being more observant. I observed people speak on videos and in person. I viewed every conversation as an opportunity to learn and absorb. My goal was to see if ‘charisma’ really was the trait of a successful leader.

Over time I uncovered a secret superpower that works every time — a soft voice. And as it turns out, it’s not the armor of weaklings, but the weapon of the strong ones.

It Helps the Listener Lower Their Guard

M. Scott Pec said,

“Since true listening involves a setting aside of the self, it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the others. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will feel less and less vulnerable, and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. As this happens, the speaker and listener begin to appreciate each other more and more, and the dance of love is begun again.”

When you start talking to people, especially new connections, they’re not instantly receptive to your words. They don’t want to listen to you. Because who wants to listen to other people anyway?

Similarly, when you have difficult conversations with people it’s difficult to get your point across — they’re not receptive either.

Here’s a practical example.

Let’s say you want to critique some work done by your colleague who’s also your good friend. When you start listing all the things he did wrong, he may understand. But his ego will prevent him from learning the real lesson.

That is, he may understand it intellectually, but his heart is closed. Until he accepts your opinion in his heart, he’ll not act on it.

The way to the heart is through love. This is where your voice comes into play. A soft voice makes people feel relaxed and open. It conveys your love, respect, and gratitude. This makes it easier for you to share your opinions and also for them to improve on the feedback.

Your job is to uplift the people around you, and a soft voice does just that.

You Get to Hear Others

It’s a no-brainer. For one, you’ve already helped others around you open up with your soft tone. And now, finally, you can listen to what they have to say.

Often people with good intentions spoil the conversation with their loud voices. They annoy their listeners. And when the listeners can’t find a suitable time to speak up, they shut up instead.

I can’t count the number of times when a loud voice has irritated me. The only thing I can think of is leaving the conversation as soon as possible.

In the workplace, it kills creativity. A team that has good speaking and listening habits can move much faster in the right direction as compared to others.

You De-Stress the Conversation

A loud voice does nothing but creates stress in your body and brain. It puts extra pressure on your vocal cords. When you’re stressed, your vocal cords tighten up and your pitch accordingly raises. And then your attention drifts away from what you’re trying to say.

Speaking loudly is more exhausting than we realize.

As a high school kid, I went to debate competitions where I was competing with much older kids. They had heavy, loud voices. And me? I don’t think puberty even hit me properly at that time. They would shout to make their point and after every 2 minutes, they would gasp for a sip of water — a huge distraction. This is the edge that got me a prize regardless of all the odds against me.

In a group, one person is all it takes to heat up the conversation. Everyone picks up on his high cortisol levels. They think the only way to get heard is to speak louder than the other one. Soon the conversation turns into an argument and you wonder why things went south.

Don’t think people can’t pick up on these cues. Humans are really good ate hearing stress in other people’s voices. That’s why we, as speakers, need to compensate.

By lowering your voice, you chill everyone out. There’s no need to raise your voice to make a point.

You Always Radiate Positivity

The body language always trumps the content of the conversation. If you’re happy but your tone is extremely high, you can scare people off. But if your voice is low, you can draw people in even if the content itself is unpleasant.

This is key to bring others closer instead of scaring them away.

I wonder why we’re always told to be loud, assertive, and dominating. As obvious as it seems, you can get things done with people without screaming at them.

Softness, not loudness, is the key to being heard.

You’re Suddenly the Highlight of the Conversation

I thought if I don’t speak in meetings and calls, my opinion would not count. But during one such session, I decided to do the opposite. I waited for everyone to speak.

When all the dust settled, they asked for my point of view and I gave it. Everyone actually listened and I no longer had to fight for attention.

Speaking softly and speaking less are not common traits. By doing it, you make yourself stand out from the crowd. And this makes them come to you rather than you chasing them.

Rumi puts it beautifully,

When I run after what I think I want, my days are a furnace of stress and anxiety; if I sit in my own place of patience, what I need flows to me, and without pain.

It’s a Superpower

Being soft-spoken and knowing when to shut up is a superpower.

If you can’t control your tongue, how can you be successful in life? But if you do, you’re a glowing example of self-control for others.

You’re able to collaborate effectively, connect deeply, and drive change while others continue to blabber in their loud voices.

In your next conversation, try to speak softer than usual and see what happens. The shift in the vibe is dramatic. Or even **do it now. **Call one of your friends and practice this art with them.

At the risk of sounding grandiose, you can change the world, one conversation at a time.

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Written on July 27, 2020