By Ed Rappuhn – SCORE Nashville

“Coworkers, customers, and even my wife, say I’m a bit pushy but I can’t help myself. How can I come across as having the other person’s best interest at heart?”

I feel your pain. Most people believe their ideas are best and if others would just listen the world would be a better place. At SCORE, our counselors go through a training program that, when followed, makes our mentoring sessions much more productive. The process is based on the acronym, SLATE.

Stop and suspend judgment

Listen and learn

Assess and analyze

Test ideas

Expectation setting

Stop and suspend judgment. Clients come to me dressed poorly or with an idea that, at first thought, is doomed to failure. Many high tech projects would never get off the ground if the appearance of the ratty blue-jeaned, t-shirted idea guy were the key to success. And just because an idea doesn’t appeal to you does not mean it is not irresistible to a different demographic. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity because of your prejudices.

Listen and learn. You have two ears and one mouth; you should listen twice as much as you talk. One of the greatest benefits of being a SCORE mentor is learning about new and different ideas and concepts. Rarely do I meet a client who doesn’t teach me something new. If I don’t first listen and learn about their business, the guidance I provide is likely to be off base.

Access and analyze. Consider the possible consequences of an action. Is it a remedy to someone’s pain? Do you satisfy something he or she wants? If not, ponder alternatives.

Test ideas. Get other opinions. Try an idea in a small way and see if it works. Rather than going “all in” at the beginning, build upon successes. If your customers want blue, and you only have red, this is likely the time to pivot.

Expectation setting. End discussions or meetings with a plan about what happens next. Make sure you understand who is responsible, when the task is due, how it will be done, and why it’s being done. This ensures that you move forward and don’t simply stay in neutral.

Did you notice I spent more time on the first two steps of the process than the last three? That’s because these two are the hardest to perform and probably the most critical. Next time you have a chance, work on steps one and two. You might even lose concentration because you are trying to focus on the listening process, telling yourself, “Shut up and listen.”

Don’t worry; it will soon become natural. Then, instead of pushing your ideas, you can focus on solutions.

Ed Rappuhn is a mentor, workshop facilitator, and the past-chair of SCORE Nashville. SCORE mentors guide entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses. Sign up for a free SCORE mentor, find out about our reasonably priced workshops and other services, or volunteer to become a SCORE member at