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“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”

 Peter Drucker

Talking To People

Interestingly, there are only a few jobs where you don’t have to talk to people.

Dog walker and fire tower attendant are the first two that come to my mind.  Night security guard and heavy equipment operator are two other professions where you don’t have to talk to people.

But for the most part, every job, at some point, causes you to need to talk to people.

And as Pete Drucker is quoted, the active listening component of talking to people is the most important.


Most business people and entrepreneurs are deluged in data.

We can get all kinds of data to apply to our key metrics in managing our business if we wish.  For example, data about our customers, traffic, and competition is available.  We can learn about our past business practices and estimates of our future business needs.  Data can be found about our products and what our competition is doing to compete.

So much data can be found that we really don’t have to talk to anyone to know how to manage our businesses—or so some would like for you to think.

Need to Talk to People

First, we need to understand that most data is nonsense.

Oh, it’s real data, but it is data framed around specific queries that most likely are not identical to your business.  In industry, this is called being “precisely inaccurate.”

Second, talking to and listening to the customers, vendors, and employees has a historical track record of enviable success.  Study after study reveals the fascinating insights discovered from personal interactions.

Successful business people and entrepreneurs know that the physical act of talking to a person is a non-negotiable component of success.

How to Talk to People

Many business people don’t effectively communicate with other people out of fear.  Instead, they fear failure because they don’t know how to talk to people.

Here are several ideas to overcome the fear of actively engaging with other people.

  1. Mind your manners

This means greeting people with a “hello,” saying “nice to meet you,” “thank you,” and “goodbye.” It seems obvious, but when you’re communicating with your customers through a computer screen all day, it’s easy to forget there’s a human on the other end.

  1. Keep it positive

Be conscious of your word choices and their connotation.  Avoid negative language like “that isn’t possible,” “we can’t,” “we don’t,” “but,” or an outright “no.”

  1. Don’t ghost them

Many conversations require you to follow up.  Don’t miss this opportunity for a second conversation.

  1. Treat them like your colleagues

Everyone we talk to—customer, employee, vendor, or stranger—is a real human.  Everyone should be shown the same courtesies and respect.

  1. Listen more than you talk

Your instinct may be to drive the conversation.  Don’t.  Ask broad, open-ended questions and then sit back and listen, asking only a few prompting or clarifying questions.

The Bible

James 1:19 says:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

And Ephesians 4:29 says:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Whether speaking to a family member or a stranger, our communication should always come forth in a loving manner.  Otherwise, our testimony is damaged, as is the name of Jesus Christ, when His people fail to guard their tongues.

The best way to be sure what comes from our mouths is pure is to be aware of what is in our hearts.  As Jesus reminded the Pharisees,

“Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

If our hearts are filled with ungodliness, it will eventually come forth in our speech, no matter how hard we try to restrain it.

Business leaders need to be effective at talking. 

This is not that they dominate the conversation, are eloquent, or use multi-syllable words.  Instead, they get the most from talking to someone—the dialogue is authentic, sincere, and informative.  And most importantly, they listen from the heart.