Much is written about the skill of listening. Listening is often cited as the key to effective communication. Seek first to understand your audience and then you will be more effective with delivering your message. This is one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (a best selling book by Stephen R. Coven) and it is foundational to art of persuasion and successful sales among other types of goal directed verbal communications.
But let’s focus on the flip side of this – the skill of talking. More precisely, the skill of simply engaging in a conversation within a social setting. There is no goal for the conversation other than to get to know someone new or to spend time with a friend or associate. Think of all the conversations over lunch, coffee, after hours, weekends. Also, the many social events with the opportunity to meet new connections. Many times, bad habits result in poor conversations. Too much talking creates monologues rather than dialogs and can be boring for the listener. Talking only about yourself, your experiences and people you know can also be boring. These habits can be hard to break particularly because they are often not self-recognized. But success can be achieved by focusing on the elements of good conversation and learning some new habits that will replace the old.
Unless you are giving a lecture, a good talker is a good conversationalist. Here are some tips to remember in building this skill:
- Think Partnership. Conversation is an exchange between two or more people. Success occurs when both partners are active and engaged. Bring energy and also be prepared to listen. Talkers and listeners are equal in this partnership. Play both roles with interest and enthusiasm.
- Create Building Blocks. Envision starting to construct a building. Lay a foundation that can be built upon. Examples of foundations starters include either asking a question or making a statement about a shared experience that invites a response. Avoid opinions and personal statements that go nowhere.
- Be curious. If you are interested in others, and the world around you, you will be interesting to talk to. So what would you genuinely like to know? Curiosity is stoked when you remember to use the 5 W’s and the H to ask questions and build the conversation: who – what – where – when – when – and how?
- Be present. Plan to have conversations when you can focus, avoid distractions, and be patient. This can be a huge obstacle with the ever-present temptation of social media. It can be equally difficult at social events when eye contact wanders away from your conversation partner. Develop awareness of these personal distractions and take actions that will refocus attention. Alternately, seek to reschedule the conversation.
- Bring respect. Bring only respect and positive values such as integrity and humility to the conversation. Leave opinions and assumptions that are not based on facts behind. They will frequently dampen, limit or end a conversation. Don’t prejudge your audience based on their physical appearance. Stay open and curious and you will broaden your perspective and develop connections.
Talking is not done in a vacuum. Others are always involved so success comes with understanding some of the best practices of emotional intelligence such as those highlighted here. The first step is to understand yourself and your unconscious habits. The next step is to be sensitive to the role and needs of others. Finally success comes with understanding and managing the relationship between yourself and others. This includes developing new habits. Be a good talker.