PRACTICE THE ART OF SIGNIFICANT CONVERSATIONS
Conversations are happening everyday. Some people love them, some hate them. I have been asked by many on how to have better conversations. Before we go any further, it is important to remember that YOU have a voice. You must allow others the privilege of hearing your voice. Unfortunately, many feel muted, unequipped, or intimidated to make their voices heard — especially in the midst of everyday conversations.
Whether at work, on campus, at church, or on teams, you will need to use your voice to make connections, shape policy, develop strategy, or lead change. Conversations are the best way to develop your voice. Conversations have the potential to catalyze noble action. You can be a part of this!
Here are 5 tips to have better conversations with people around you.
Tip #1: Start with good intentions
The average person can smell a fake. If you are using a person to kill time until a more important person shows up, it is not noble and it is very evident. If you are using someone simply to get the latest info, it is not honoring to that person. People are not means to an end.
Greet people with a smile. Shake hands. Look at people in the eye (if culturally appropriate). Speak warmly. At that specific moment, make your time with them intentional. People are not always what they seem. What if the next catalyst to change the world is this shy unsuspecting wallflower standing in front of you? He/she could be your best “partner in crime”! Believe in people as you talk to them.
Tip #2: Introduce yourself clearly
Don’t be shy to introduce yourself! In fact, not just who you are… but address where, when, what, etc. Let people know where you were born or currently live, why you came to this conference or joined the team, what is happening in regards to your professional development, etc.
Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it open. In fact, this is something that I try to rehearse. I have crafted a statement that I utilize to start conversations. In many ways, this statement is not only introductory, but it becomes my personal value proposition. For example, here is what I typically say.
Hey, my name is Linson Daniel. Yeah, that’s L-I-N-S-O-N. (I usually have to spell my name for others). My parents are from India, and I was born and raised in Mesquite, TX. I’m extremely glad to be here to connect with other people that have similar ideas. The university campus, young adults, and producing world-changers is core to what I do in this stage of my life. I am doing that as an area director for a para-church organization. I still feel kinda new at this line of work — especially while being a husband and relatively new father, but I’m loving this journey and have significantly grown…
What about you?
There is a lot packed into that short blurb, but it immediately answers the question about my ethnicity because people always want to know that but do not know how to ask. It also opens the door to engage about work, ambition, family, and/or other networking possibilities. It also shows that I’m a learner and open to hearing from them. This is a great way to introduce yourself and creates on-ramps for the rest of your conversation.
Tip #3: Ask open-ended questions
Notice the last thing about my introduction is a question. Questions are the lifeblood of a conversation. Remember that an interested person is an interesting person. There is something captivating about you when you ask questions that open up new connections, insights, and value between you both. Put others before yourself with your conversation.
Keep asking questions that build upon what you have heard. Don’t be weird and random with your questions. If he/she is talking about family, then ask about family… not about your next project or idea. For example, here is an excerpt from a recent conversation:
Did you say you were from India too? Wow, where?
What made you guys immigrate to the U.S.?
When was the last time you went back to India?
What would you say is your favorite part about being Indian? Is it the people (or food, culture, clothing, church, Bollywood, leadership)? Why?
This conversation will probably last about 15-20 minutes, easy! Your friend feels validated, heard, and connected to you because you kept the conversation going by asking great questions. Great questions cannot be answered by “yes” or “no”. Great questions start dialogue or stories. Great questions also make your new friend the center of attention.
Tip #4: Stay focused on the conversation
Who is the main character of your conversation? Not you! BUT… without you there is not a conversation at all. Let your new friend share their thoughts, stories, and ideas. While they are sharing, don’t be distracted or distracting. Don’t let others take you away from your conversation. Be focused and in charge of your surroundings.
Some people love to work the room by being everywhere and meeting everyone. My best advise is NOT to be that “social butterfly” per se, but be a “social tortoise”. Haha, ok, so that is not a great picture. But what I mean is that you should be precise, prudent, and polite as you work your way around the room.
Fluttering, giggling, and prancing around a room is not helpful for you or others. Stay focused on your current conversation. Remember that 1-2 meaningful conversations is better than 10-15 shallow conversations.
Tip #5: End with a chance to follow-up
The conversation is not the end, but the beginning. Always have a method of reconnecting again. Try using a clear, informative business card. Or consider using Evernote Hello. (P.S. let me know if you use this software — I want to learn more about it). Or simply exchange phone numbers — in a professional, non-hookup sorta way. Haha.
These connections are important and I believe these conversations are divinely orchestrated. Oh and another practical tip: take out your phone and set a reminder on your to-do list or calendar to send your new friends an email within the next 7-10 days. Write down a few aspects of your conversation and mention those things in your email.
I hope that you will take the opportunity to make the best of your next conversation. Treat people with respect. Show that you care. Believe in people. I trust that many doors will be opened for them and for you as we encourage one another. Who knows — the next big idea to help us change the world is just one conversation away… Let your voice and the voice of others be heard. Start today!