Communication is one of our best tools in building relationships, creating an atmosphere of trust, promoting learning and performance improvement, and solving problems. But because they seem so simple (“You just talk, right? I’ve been doing that since I was a kid!”), conversations are not as effective as they could be.
Here are some ways to engage others and build better conversations.
Desire for Success
Your frame of mind going into a conversation has an enormous effect on the experience you will have. Expecting to have a miserable time? You probably will. Expecting to find grumpy people who have no time for you? You probably will. Expecting to learn something new about people and value what they have to say? You are much more likely to do so. If you walk into a conversation opportunity expecting to have a terrible time and wishing you weren’t there, it will take something really significant on someone’s part to change your mind. Instead, do the work yourself. Expect to learn and share and have a positive experience.
Make Yourself Available
Don’t hide behind what Stephen Miller calls “conversation avoidance devices” like phones, music, and tablets. Be ready for a conversation. Look for opportunities. Say hello to people you happen to share space with. Ask “How are you?” when you see a neighbor on the corner. Smile. Open yourself up physically — take your hands out of your pockets, unfold your arms, take earbuds out, and be ready to talk. Open yourself up mentally — look for times to have even a very short conversation. Be available.
Follow a Purpose
Think about what you want to happen. Why are you having this conversation? Even “small talk” has a purpose — to get to know people better, to discover shared interests, to make new connections. When conversations fall apart, it’s often because one person feels upset and starts to talk but doesn’t have a plan for what he wants to happen. Know your purpose before you open your mouth.
Focus on Others
For many, “success” in a conversation means saying everything they want to say. Such one-way talking is not a conversation — it’s a monologue with an audience. Focus on others in your conversations. Speak in ways that encourage others to participate. Be aware of your body language — are you positioning yourself to do all the talking? Be aware of others’ body language — does anyone look uncomfortable or like she wants to say something? Monitor reactions and make an effort to include others. If other people have a good experience, that’s a conversation “success.”
One way to get others talking is to ask what they think and make it obvious you really want to know. Ask open questions that reveal your interest. Even a mundane topic like the weather can generate interesting questions if you make an effort. Questions like “What was the weather like where you grew up?” or “What’s the worst weather you’ve experienced?” do a better job than “So, hot enough for you?” If you can make the weather interesting, think of what you can do with questions about interesting topics!
No wonder, Quizzes did a lot more happening for many websites’ online success. Go through a lot of fun personality quizzes for some inspiration.
Know When to Keep Talking
Sometimes it takes awhile to figure out what’s really going on with someone. One client shared an example. An employee came to her complaining about the choice of restaurant for a working lunch. But further conversation revealed his real concern was not the type of food, but his feeling that he was never involved in decisions. The supervisor would not have realized what the real problem was unless she had kept the conversation going.
Know When to Stop Talking
On the other hand, sometimes conversations get worse and worse as they go on and everyone needs to stop. Just stop talking. For some reason, when things start to get uncomfortable or emotional, some people have a tendency to talk more, to explain in greater detail, to repeat statements. At the same time, the others in the conversation, also uncomfortable and/or emotional, have stopped listening. When things are going badly, stop talking. Give everyone time to regroup. If necessary, put the conversation on pause and reconvene after some time has passed. Know when to say when.
Match the Style of Others
People have different conversation styles. I tend to be highly participatory. When someone else is speaking, I chime in to agree or share another example in support. When speaking with friends who have a similar style, great conversations result, with all of us talking alongside each other and everyone feeling good about it. But my husband has a more paced style, where everyone takes a turn. He sees my participation as an interruption, even if I’m agreeing. If we both stick to our default styles, the conversation is stilted and unsatisfactory. The quickest and easiest way to have a successful conversation with someone who has a different style is to modify your own. The rate of success and enjoyment is well worth the effort.
Give Room for Other Voices
An extension of recognizing and adjusting style is to make room in the conversation for other voices. Sometimes this involves slowing your speaking pace to give others a chance to think before responding. Just being quiet for a moment has a remarkable effect on people who like to try an idea out in their heads before saying it out loud. Sometimes this means encouraging the other person to say more by saying things like “Can you tell me more about that?” instead of jumping in with your own ideas. Don’t fill up all the space in the conversation with your own voice.
Come to a Conclusion
Don’t just leave the conversation when you’ve said your piece. Take the time to make sure everyone has been heard and is satisfied. Of course, you don’t need to say “In conclusion…” the way some people do when ending a speech. But you can check in and make sure everyone feels good about things. Conversations tend to feel more satisfying when there’s a clear conclusion.
Please have a look at this blog copy I recently came through – “Sparkling Clean from Homes to Offices.” Though it is an advertisement sort of post, they (blog managers) continued to keep the conversational tone from the start till the end. And the best part is – they attempted focusing on readers and winning their trust.
Over to You
Conversations have the potential to increase understanding, explore options, resolve difficulties, forge alliances, create plans, establish milestones, anticipate success, and strengthen relationships. It’s well worth the effort to have engaging conversations.