Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Learning the Art of Business Conversations
One of the great things about social media is that it allows you to connect with people from around the world, giving you a chance to interact with someone you might not otherwise get to know.
But one of the unfortunate things is that some people hide behind social media and use it as an excuse to avoid actual human interaction. You know, that thing where you talk to someone, maybe even -- gasp -- have a conversation face-to-face!
I think part of the problem is that we've become so accustomed to texting and emailing and communicating through social media that we've lost a bit of our confidence when it comes to interacting with another person face-to-face. Or, it could be having such a conversation is a skill you've never fully developed, and so you just avoid it.
If so, you need to break the habit of hiding behind your keyboard or your phone. If you cannot learn to communicate in person in the business world, your career is going to suffer. There will come a time when you must be able to hold an in-person conversation, and your career may depend on how well you pull it off.
Afraid you will say the wrong thing or commit some other faux pas? Never fear -- the Emily Post people are here to rescue you and give you the confidence you need to have an adult conversation with anyone, whether it's your CEO or a colleague.
In "The Etiquette Advantage in Business," the authors suggest:
1. Learning the art of small talk. This is opening part of a conversation where you talk about topics such as recent blog posts you've read, pop culture, sports or the weather. Try to stay away from controversial topics such as politics, religion and sex. Not everyone may hold the same view as you, and you risk offending the other person. In a business setting, don't ask probing questions about someone else's family or financial situation, and don't offer too much detail about your own.
2. Not killing someone with boredom: Once you get past the small talk (it usually takes about five minutes), then you may get into topics such as new technology at your company. Remember, it's supposed to be a conversation, not a monologue. Pause occasionally to ask the person, "What do you think so far?" While you want to make eye contact and turn your body towards the other person to show interest, don't hammer your listener with opinions so that they feel you're being aggressive or condescending and just start to tune you out.
3. End on a good note. As your conversation comes to an end, give a brief wrap-up of any decisions made during the conversation so that you ensure there are no misunderstandings. End your conversation on a "social note" to show the conversation is ending. "It's been great speaking with you. And, you're right -- it should be an interesting basketball season!"
What are some other ways to have better business conversations?