Talk Less, Say More

Connie Dieken says that face-to-face communication skills are plummeting in the 21st century. She believes we need to embrace 3 key habits to learn how to talk less, and still make things happen.

According to Connie Dieken, face-to-face communication skills are plummeting in the twenty-first century. She believes that we need to embrace three key habits to re-boot our interpersonal aptitude. In her book Talk Less, Say More, she sets out how to use these three principles to re-engage in a world of short attention spans and get people to pay attention to you and your offerings. Stay with us for the next 10 minutes and you’ll learn how to talk less, and still make things happen.

HABIT 1: CONNECT: Give People What They Want & Value So They’ll Tune In

Dieken defines ‘connecting’ as the ability to engage and manage people’s attention in today’s busy world. It’s no longer enough to just make contact. We need to give people what they want and what they value in order to earn their attention, or they’ll tune us out.

Today, customers now hold the power. They hold the remote control and we’re just one of many TV channels. They have options, so if we want to be Must-See TV, we must connect smartly. Combine this with the fact that we’ve become a shortcut society. We have to win people over in a hurry before their attention spans shrink. How do we do this? Dieken gives us some useful tactics:

Tactic #1: Focus on the needs of the people with whom we’re communicating.

We need to manage our own attention in order to win other people’s interest. Are we inadvertently coming across as self-absorbed, distracted, or rushed and losing opportunities as a result? If so it’s time to change focus. Dieken advises us to try some of the following:

  • Show respect.
  • Don’t race ahead. Take time for them to digest.
  • Aim for the heart, not the head. Concentrate on people’s feelings first.
  • Don’t be a drifter. Stick to the subject.
  • Focus on people, not electronics. Put away the Blackberry and iPhone.
  • Watch for eye movement. If people raise their eyebrows or their eyes dart nervously, it’s a clear signal that we’ve touched a nerve.
  • Observe their lips. The lips are among the most emotional parts of the body. Drooping or pursed lips are usually an unvoiced sign of disappointment or disagreement.

Tactic #2: Listen for Intent: What people say is often not what they mean.

That’s why it’s dangerous to be stuck on the exact words that others utter since their intentions trump their words. What’s more important is the emotion behind the words. We need to listen accurately to interpret what they really mean. How? Here is Deiken’s advice:

  • Listen for repetition. It’s normally the key issues that are repeated.
  • Take note of emphasis. This can identify priorities and quick wins.
  • Ensure clarity and gain respect by saying, “Let me see if I’ve got this right. Are you saying . . . ?”
  • Don’t be hijacked in meetings. Sometimes the concerns of a single individual can irritate everyone else in the group.

Tactic #3: Avoid Code Red. Many of us create our own personal Code Red situations during important communications that prevent us from connecting effectively. We think only of ourselves and what we are experiencing by reacting inappropriately to comments or feedback. According to Dieken, the antidote to losing control is to focus outwardly on our audience instead of focusing inwardly on our own needs and nuances. We are advised to: Follow the law of inverse proportions. The more inflammatory the question, the more calmly our answer should be delivered. Self-correct. If we make a mistake, we should acknowledge our error and correct it on the spot. Make midcourse changes. When we pick up on clues that our audience is upset or tuning out, we need to stay flexible and adapt. Don’t get caught up in the “I have the floor” game. The goal is to initiate dialogue — not to launch into a lecture others could interpret as a diatribe.

HABIT 2: CONVEY: Use Portion Control to Get Our Points Across with Clarity, not Confusion.

Let’s take stock. Our inbox is cluttered, our desk is cluttered… in fact, our mind is cluttered. We need shortcuts to process and understand it all. Just as we manage our incoming communications, we should also manage our outgoing communications to help cut through other people’s information overload.

According to Dieken, the key is portion control. Portion control is a smarter way to convey messages because it forces us to manage information effectively so that others can process it equally well. As before, Dieken gives us useful tactics.

Tactic #1: Use the Dominant Sense. Vision is the most dominant human sense.

Our brains process visuals up to ten times faster than mere words. Any time we can show rather than tell we can reduce the risk that the receiver will misunderstand, misconstrue, or miss our message, and we get results faster. Dieken advises we try the following:

  • Show contrast. Simple graphs, before and after comparisons.
  • Using contrast we can demonstrate growth or market dominance or exploit a competitor’s weakness.
  • Rethink PowerPoint. Avoid too much text. Avoid too many jazzy graphics. Even PowerPoint’s creators Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin suggest PowerPoint can dress up poor content. Use PowerPoint as a communicator, not camouflage.

Tactic #2: Use Social Media.

Dieken suggests that the appeal of social sites is both obvious and subtle. In the opt-in world, people can quickly consent to have contact with us. However, if we annoy them or subsequently don’t appeal to them, they can drop us just as quickly. So how do we get around that issue?

Post clear, simple ideas. Our job is to convey the essence of our message, not everything we know.

Once uploaded, it’s there forever. Get someone else to check your posts before committing your content to perpetuity. Don’t slip into business-speak or industry jargon. Be personal, not corporate.

Tactic #3: Talk in Triplets.

According to Dieken, If we want to save time and effort in helping people understand our messages we need to structure them in threes. Triplets are so ingrained in our daily lives that we probably don’t notice them but subconsciously it feels right. Want some examples?


3 strikes

3 musketeers

Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.

Dieken suggests that when we structure our triplets we should put the desired choice first. It sets the standard and creates a challenging benchmark.

HABIT 3: CONVINCE: Create Commitment to Influence Decisions, Actions, and Results.

The ability to positively and quickly influence others is a core leadership skill that produces superior results. It’s even more important now because speed has become critical. Dieken explains that convincing does not mean manipulating or arm-twisting.

The difference is intent. Manipulators focus on their own needs. They steamroll, lie, or omit the truth to get what they want. Convincing is not a thunderbolt event. It’s not an isolated occurrence. It’s a process that unfolds incrementally to change hearts and minds and compel others to action.

Dieken suggests that if we convince in a smart manner, we’ll improve our ability to sell ideas, products, services, or ourselves. We will increase our ability to get things done through the actions of others.

Tactic #1: Sound decisive.

Sound like a wimp and we’ll be treated like one. Using weak language strips us of power and blocks our ability to convince others. Our capacity to communicate decisions is one of the most telling measures of our power and influence. When we sound decisive we capitalize on opportunities and conquer obstacles. If we sound self-assured, people will respond with confidence to us and our contributions.

Tactic #2: Stop Tagging and hedging.

Tagging means turning a perfectly good declaration into a question by adding a short question at the end. “Isn’t that right? Okay? Why should anyone commit if we can’t? Hedging means starting a sentence with weak words in order to dodge commitment. “I’m not an expert, but..” “I kind of feel like…” Hedging makes us sound like we doubt our own words. We’re hiding behind words and giving ourselves a way out.

Tactic #3: Contribute to meetings.

Do you have a habit of staying quiet during meetings, especially in the presence of superiors? Dieken suggests that a prolonged silence borne out of a lack of confidence damages our credibility. So what does she suggest?

Use planned spontaneity. If we are anxious or uncertain in new surroundings we should prepare in advance. We should review the agenda and identify an item where we can contribute. Done properly, planned spontaneity sounds like you just thought it up and earned brownie points.

Be direct. We should avoid sounding ambiguous when making requests or telling others what to do. Indirectness leads others to conclude that instructions are unimportant and can be ignored.

Don’t be invisible. We should trust our gut, stop second-guessing, and get in the game. Be assertive in voice, not passive.

Tactic #4: Create commitment, not compliance.

Dieken suggests that by transferring ownership we shift our ideas and decisions to others so they will embrace them and act on them. People should feel as if they’re volunteering, not surrendering. Transferring ownership helps build morale, retention, productivity, and sales. It also encourages commitment to you as the leader.

Self-discovery is the most persuasive argument. It’s powerful when people feel they’ve arrived at a decision by themselves. Therefore, if we transfer our ideas and decisions to others so they can take ownership, we’re more likely to get positive results. How do we start?

Use peer pressure. Seek commitment from key influencers. Seek out the people and stakeholders in our workplace who routinely influence other people.

Tap into trustworthy, popular people. Oprah Winfrey supported Barack Obama in the early stages, asked a popular, trustworthy people to help rally the troops.

Use an alternative format. We can do this in meetings by addressing everyone as a group and then keying in on powerful people who will back us up and lend their support.

Get them to take a stand. When people publicly proclaim their position, they are most likely to stay true to their decisions.

In summary:

Connect to what others want and value

Convey with portion control to create clarity

Convince them to personally commit and take action.

The result is applied leadership like no other!

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** End Book Summary **

Talk Less, Say More Action for Coaches

Nanocourse for Coaches using Talk Less, Say More for Inspiration

How would you use this book to enhance your skills as a coach?

Proof: This playbook is inspired by “Talk Less, Say More” by Connie Dieken. Connie Dieken, a respected communication expert, delves into effective methods of communication that lead to greater influence and leadership. Her insights are especially relevant to ICF-certified coaches aiming to enhance their coaching techniques.

Principle: To truly transform and impact the lives of clients, ICF-certified coaches must adopt a communication style that centers on three core pillars: connection, clarity, and convincing. By prioritizing genuine engagement, conveying messages with precision, and fostering genuine commitment, coaches can empower their clients to realize their full potential.

Promise: By mastering this triad of communication skills, coaches will enhance their coaching sessions, leading to deeper client insights, accelerated goal achievement, and stronger coach-client bonds.


  1. Empathetic Engagement: Prioritize your client’s emotions and feelings during each session. During discussions, ask yourself, “How does my client feel right now?” For instance, if a client seems anxious, you might say, “I sense some hesitation in your voice. Would you like to talk about it?”
  2. Visual Reinforcement: Use tools like vision boards or diagrams to clarify concepts. When discussing life goals, think, “How can I visually represent this idea?” You could say, “Let’s draw a roadmap of your aspirations for the next five years.”
  3. Three-Point Clarity: Always present ideas or feedback in groups of three for better retention. When wrapping up a session, think, “What are the three most pivotal insights from today?” Then vocalize them, saying, “From our talk today, these are the three crucial takeaways…”
  4. Confident Convincing: Use affirmative language to inspire action. Think, “How can I phrase this to encourage proactive steps?” For example, rather than saying, “Maybe you could try this approach,” opt for “I believe this strategy aligns well with your goals. Give it a shot.”
  5. Feedback Elicitation: Regularly seek feedback on your coaching techniques. After a session, think, “Am I meeting my client’s needs effectively?” Then ask, “How did you feel about today’s session? Is there any area we should focus more on?”
  6. Non-Verbal Cues: Pay close attention to your client’s body language. Ask yourself, “What is their posture indicating?” If they seem closed off, say, “You appear to be a bit reserved. Is there something on your mind?”
  7. Commitment Cultivation: Encourage clients to voice their commitment to their goals. During goal-setting, prompt, “Can you articulate your dedication to this objective?” which could lead to them saying, “I am committed to achieving this by the end of the year.”
  8. Session Reflections: Conclude each session with a recap, solidifying learnings, and next steps. After a discussion, think, “How can we crystallize our insights?” You might say, “Let’s summarize the core strategies we’ve established today.”

Prompt: Think back to a recent coaching session. How did you employ the principles of connecting, conveying, and convincing? What was the impact on your client’s responses and subsequent actions?

If you find this nano course on how to use the principles of the book summary to apply to your role as a coach, you can learn more about nano courses here.

P.S. If you need more support in creating positive habits in work or in life reach out to me or one of the many other amazing coaches on to get support.

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