Most of us have a range of different conversations throughout an average working day. These can look like anything from department meetings and phonecalls with clients; to grabbing a coffee with a colleague or catching up with a friend. These conversations can be very important, as a positive conversation can have very successful outcomes. However in a world where the face to face conversation seems to have been slowly replaced by online interactions, in the words of Jim Brown, ‘technology is creating a society with relationships a mile wide but an inch deep’.
Conversation is the key to building deeper relationships, so try our 5 tips to help you achieve more fruitful conversations:
Give conversations your full attention in that moment, as allowing ourselves to be distracted when someone is speaking to us is the ultimate no-no. However good you think you are at multi-tasking, you will never be able to give your full focus to someone if you are simultaneously looking at your phone or computer screen.
Meaningful conversations don’t have to be reserved only for the times when you have hours to spare. Even when you only have a few minutes to spare you can still make the time count by giving the conversation. Ken Blanchard famously suggested that managers should spend just 60 seconds setting goals, giving praise or coaching individual team members in the One Minute Manager.
Consider your phrasing
The key to encouraging people to open up is to avoid simply asking ‘How are you?’ in a way that allows them to answer ‘I’m fine, how are you?’ Try using different phrasing and altering the emphasis of certain words, as this can help to encourage a more thoughtful response which then opens the door to a deeper conversation.
Forget advice about using eye contact, open body language and nodding to show you are listening, and don’t stress about showing you have heard them by repeating their words back to them. Focusing on these techniques could distract you from actually hearing what is being said. If you are genuinely listening with sincerity and curiosity then the speaker will know that they have your full attention.
Use open questions
If you want to keep the conversation going then try to always ask ‘why?’ rather than ‘what?’ or ‘how?’. Open questions often lead to the best answers and encourage people to open up.