Justin Ricklefs


How to Earn the Right to be Heard – 3 Practical Ways

There is a phrase I learned in high school that has shaped a great deal of how I operate in all areas of my life.  Its implications are evident at home and at work.

Earn the right to be heard. 

As a high school student, I became involved in an amazing organization – Young Life.  Young Life does a ton of things well, but one of the best things is their ability to build meaningful, relevant and long lasting relationships.  Quite simply, their leaders earn the right to be heard.

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My Young Life leader kept showing up, without an agenda.  He watched my baseball games and took me to Taco Bell.  He asked about my family and about my interests.

He cared about me long before he cared to share his mind.  In a board room or on the porch swing, it’s critical that we put in the effort to build a strong foundation in a relationship before dominating a conversation.

A sales manager of mine used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen twice as much as you talk and your sales will soar.”

It’s true.  And simple.  But few do it right.  Do the work necessary to earn trust and respect, and then the people in your world will look to you as an advisor and a partner.  Here are three practical ways to do this:

  • Answer a question with a question.  People love to talk, so let them do more of it. For example, Prospect: “Who are some of your current clients? Trusted Advisor: “That’s a great question, would it be helpful for you if I group them by industry type, size or geography?” By asking a more specific question, you’ll get far more meaningful insight into what matters to them.
  • Don’t wing it.  When I wing it, I talk too much. Whether it’s a date night with Brooke or a formal sales presentation, I’m working hard at spending more time prepping for the engagement than actually doing it.  If there’s a plan, or at least a framework, it will free you to focus on the other party instead of worrying about what will come out of your mouth next.
  • Become a place of safety. That means quit gossiping and cutting people down. Instead, treat the issues of others with a deep respect.  Once they know you are safe, the walls of cynicism and distrust fall down and you become a trusted confidant.

We have all seen the opposite of this approach.  The dominant personality, the brash executive, the arrogant salesman, the angry parent.  While short-term wins may happen with this methodology, the long-term impact pales in comparison to the individual who builds equity and respect.

Earn the right to be heard today, it may take more time, but it’s worth it.

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