Tuesday, August 10, 2010

DC4W: Be a Good Listener

Technique Tuesday

Continuing our on-going series on Dale Carnegie for Writers (DC4W), the fourth principle in the Six Ways to Make People Like You, the second section in How to Win Friends and Influence People, is, "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.."

Unless you've been living under a social media rock, you know that relentless self promotion is the surest way to alienate people. Instead, we're encouraged to get out and interact, leaving, for example, thoughtful, relevant comments on blogs. Of course, you need to listen to the conversation for a while to determine which of the things you might want to say are relevant.

Listening and encouraging others to talk about themselves is even more important at conferences and events with publishing professionals. While you should be ready to have something to say for yourself--an introduction and a brief answer/pitch for the inevitable, "Oh, and what do you write?" question--you'll get much more out of encouraging others to talk about themselves.


Dale Carnegie tells a story of a salesman who asked a few questions and then spent most of his appointment listening. A few days later, the prospect placed a large order because the salesman was "such a nice young man." Put in more cynical terms, no agent or editor is going to fall in love with your manuscript based on your interactions at a conference, but they will be more interested in your project if you showed them that you're a good listener and interested in them. 

Finally, at the broadest level, you need to listen to the market. I'm not talking about chasing trends, but I do believe you need to meet the market half way. There are any number of ways to listen to the market--blogs, reviews, studying bookstores--but the single most valuable way you can listen to the market and encourage books to talk about themselves is to read them. Many writers will say that the single most important thing you can do to become a writer (aside from writing) is to read.

A reader suggested that the ratio of your ears to your mouth is a good guideline for the proportion of listening to talking.

Image: luigi diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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