Why Leaders Encourage Others To Talk About Themselves


By Jas Singh

My son is now three years old.

And as many parents may have also experienced, he’s at the age where all of sudden he’s craving attention.

Seriously, craving it. Doing something else other than playing with him if you’re in the same room is impossible. Trying to have a conversation with another person is a big no-no. Last week he even came and unclasped Mummy and Daddy’s hands when we were sitting on the sofa.

Like most children (so I’m told..or so I hope), apprantly it’s just a phase.

Everything has to be about him.

We’ve tried everything. Books, explanations even the iPhone. Nothing seemed to work.

Until two weeks ago. On the way back in the car from school I decided to ask him a simple question. “How was school today? Tell me all about your day.”

Off he went. For a full thirty minutes. Now every day on the car journey home he enjoy’s telling daddy all about himself and his busy toddler day.

He’s no different to the rest of us. Although we have much higher emotional control than a three year old, we all like to be heard. To talk about ourselves. To feel important.

Our favorite subject is us.

Yet in the world of business, often most converstions are about targets, plans and progress reports. Leadership is more interested in the numbers than the people. Whether it’s asking a client about when they’re most likely to buy, or talking to employees about how the new product development is going, we forget about the thing that matters most – the actual person themselves.

But great leaders are different.

They realise that people are more interested in themselves and their wants than your own agenda.

Here are some reasons why great leaders encourage others to talk about themselves.

It builds stronger relationships

As social creatures, we crave to be heard.

We love to be asked questions that we enjoy answering. We love talking about past accomplishments, our aspirations and our relationships.

Often the best friends we have are the ones who are most interested in us.

Talking about ourselves to those who are genuinely interested is a fundamental human need. It connects us emotionally. It’s the foundation of building trust and deep relationships.

Great leaders understand that most people are a thousand times more concerned about their aching tooth than a hundred elephants being killed every day.

Great leaders build strong relationships.

It allows more opportunity to help people

The best sales people know that the longer they keep their prospects talking, the more likely chance they have of closing the deal.


Well firstly, it relaxes the client and builds trust – no-one likes to be in the room with a fast-talking, highly pressurised sales person who is simply looking to “convince” a client. But more importantly, the bigger reason is that by finding out more about the other person, you can find out more about their exact situation and needs.

What truly motivates them? What do they want out of life? What do they want from you? What problems or successes have they enjoyed in the past?

To build the best picture and get to know a person in detail often you have to go deep. Find a subject that they’re really passionate about. They really know well. They really want to succeed in. And there is no better subject for anyone than themselves.

Great leaders understand that people’s true needs in life are complex.

To deliver, the key is getting to know them well.

It creates reciprocation

Reciprocation is a unique trait to humans.

As social creatures, we feel obliged to give back. To treat people as we are treated ourselves. To return a favour.

In a leadership environment, perhaps one of the most powerful effects of encouraging others to talk about themselves is that eventually people will want to hear what you have to say. I mean really want to hear it. To give you the same interest and enthusiasm that you have given them. To do as much as they can to try and help you.

Communication to an organisation is like blood to a body – the minute you cut it off, the organisation dies. But for communication to succeed it requires one thing that a leader must create: genunine attention.

Leaders realise that people who talk only of themselves think only of themselves.

They create attention by giving it first.


Getting interested in others and encouraging them to talk about themselves is a key requirement of leadership.

Its filling a fundamental need all of us have.

Hiring managers can gain much from those people who are interested in others and genuinely finding out about them.

It’s the only way to gain co-operation.

Now please – enough of me. What do you think about this subject?

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