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Top 7 Ways to Make Your Conversations Click
By Bill Lampton, Ph.D.
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Although you might have taken a course in public speaking or hired a speech coach, it isn't likely that you have gone through training for becoming a sought-after conversation partner. That's unfortunate, because conversations play a significant role in our personal and professional success. Consider how extensively one-on-one conversations impact our lives:
*Asking someone to marry us *Talking with our children about their adolescent problems *Dining with a potential employer *Finding out what a medical diagnosis really means *Meeting the new family next door
Now look at these seven ways to make your conversations click:
- Talk with yourself before you talk with others.
Yes, before attempting to converse with someone else, give yourself a pep talk first. These three sentences could achieve what you need--a quick boost in confidence:
"I enjoy conversations, because they help me strengthen relationships with others."
"I don't have anything to be nervous about, because people enjoy talking with me."
"I'm sure I'll learn something valuable from this person."
- Become well informed on a variety of topics.
Maybe you're not fond of NASCAR racing, but your best client attends several races a year and watches most of the others on TV. Learn the names of this year's leading drivers, and you can establish quick rapport next time you're together by asking your client who his racing heroes are.
Also, keep up with the major news stories every day, because you might be asked about them when you chit chat over lunch with a top-tier executive. This goes for local news as well as national and international events.
- Use upbeat language.
Follow the advice of the popular musical South Pacific: "Happy talk, keep talking happy talk. Talk about things you like to do."
Think back to the last time you started a conversation by asking "How are you doing today?" and then heard someone groan about the status of their health, stock market losses, loud dog next door, and the bad weather. Would you want to talk with that person again today? Probably not.
This doesn't call for you to become evasive or pretend happiness. You can mention a problem, as long as the majority of your conversation remains positive and cheerful.
- Speak in sound bites, not in filibusters.
Keep in mind the old adage, "When holding a conversation, be sure to let go of it once in awhile."
Mistakenly, most long winded talkers assume they are charming their listeners as they ramble on for several minutes without inviting the other person to respond. All of us know from experience as bored listeners that motor mouths emit more harm than charm.
One sure way to shift the conversation is to ask close-ended questions, such as: "Jerry, please tell me your opinion about the situation I have just described."
- Establish common ground quickly.
You have a real advantage when you meet an executive for the first time in her office. Look around, and you're likely to spot a clue for opening the conversation.
"I see you're president of Rotary. What's your major community involvement this year?"
"Looks like your family takes ski vacations. Have you taken one this winter?"
Right away, you have helped the executive enter the conversation on one of her favorite topics.
- Verbally indicate your desire to hear more.
Just as actors respond to cues, your professional associates will welcome your prompts.
"Interesting, please tell me more about your trip"
"I see. And then what happened next?"
"Hmmm. That must have upset you."
- Keep the focus on the other person.
Maybe you heard the quip that a gossip talks about other people, a bore talks about himself, and a brilliant conversationalist talks about you. So to impress someone with your conversational skills, keep the spotlight away from yourself and on that person.
Benjamin Disraeli said, "A man will listen to you all day long if you talk with him about himself."
Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations strengthen their communication, customer service, sales, and motivation. His client list includes the Ritz-Carlton Cancun, British Columbia Legal Management Association, Missouri Bar, Gillette, and Duracell. Visit his Web site to sign up for his complimentary online newsletter: http://www.championshipcommunication.com
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Article Submitted On: February 25, 2009