Most of us aren’t great at business conversations.
In a CNN poll run a few years ago, they asked people how well they could manage a business conversation. 70% of the respondents wouldn’t classify themselves as great conversationalists.
What if you could learn to be a great conversationalist? Would you want to know how?
- Rule One: Stay focused on the person you’re talking to.
- Rule Two: Ask open-ended questions the drive people into their memories. People have no trouble and need very little preparation to answer open-ended questions about things they’ve already experienced.
- Rule Three: Get introduced. The introductions normally create a bridge between two people that set the stage for the conversation.
- Rule Four: Create a feedback loop during the conversation. Give verbal and visual cues that tell the person you’re tracking.
- Rule Five: Have some prepared questions for strangers. Such as:
- When you’re not at events like this, what are you normally doing?
- When you’re not working, what do you love doing?
- Do you have any upcoming vacations? Where are you headed?
- Your job sounds interesting. I didn’t even know that was a job. How did you discover it?
- What’s your connection to this [event | place | person]?
- How is automation changing your day-to-day job?
- How has the “thing that keeps you up at night” changed as you’ve been in your role all this time?
- Rule Six: Pause. Breathe. Conversations should be 50/50. Pausing between sentences helps them either drive the conversation forward, or gently excuse themselves.
- Rule Seven: Stay clear of certain topics:
- Relationship Status
- Physical Appearance
- Financial Status
- Rule Eight: Be a “yes, and…” person. Research shows certain kinds of engaged debate really helps.
- Rule Nine: Read a lot. Kovie Biakolo says it best:
One of the most important aspects of being a great conversationalist is reading. Reading current events, reading fun things, reading dense things, reading things that expand your views on certain subjects, reading things you like and agree with, and reading things you don’t agree with. The latter is most important because that is fundamental to understanding different perspectives of the world. You learn nothing new from reading things you already know about or agree with. But all reading increases knowledge and improves vocabulary.”
Look at the list one more time. Do you notice something?
None of it is beyond your reach. You can get better at conversations, regardless of who you are, or what background you have.