We blog, we tweet, we use Pinterest, Facebook, and Periscope and did I mention that we text too? Many of our social connections are online now instead of next door, but it’s important to be able to have conversations in person as well…..otherwise, how will we ever Skype or hold a webinar?
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The below 3 steps to connect with people are vital to having a conversation. (And in truth, it’s only two steps plus practicing.) Even if you blog because it’s easier to share yourself that way, at some point, if you ever decide to go to a blogging conference or a meet and greet, these tips will be useful. And these guidelines hold true whether you’re having a social or a work-related conversation.
Asking questions is the best way to get other people to talk. Having a conversation is not about you talking on and on about yourself–that’s a lecture. The goal is to learn more about the other person, so please don’t share something about yourself first while you’re asking the question. And make sure you ask a question that is open, not closed. You want to get a conversation started, not have people spit answers back at you. For instance, don’t say, “The name of my blog is ‘I Only Care About Me’ what’s the name of your blog?” Instead, try something that will bring out more information like, “What do you blog about?” Not sure what questions to ask? Just Google open-ended questions, you’ll be surprised by the types of questions you’ll be able to ask, questions that will sound natural.
Seems so simple and yet, most people don’t really listen to what the other person is saying. Instead, most people decide their response within the first 5 words and then just wait for an opening in the conversation to drop it in. Wrong. Stop doing that immediately, it’s rude. If you are doing that, then you’re not really listening to the other person and that’s a problem. Try this instead and it should work if you’re at home, or even at work. In a conversation with someone, stop what you’re doing and look at the other person. This means, stop doing the dishes or prepping food or reading email or texting or gaming. Once the other person is done talking, then frame up your response preferably, in the form of a question. Don’t start talking about yourself or offer an opinion or share your own experiences with the same problem, until you are asked. Wait for it.
You can’t be good at or get better at something unless you practice. And practicing is easier than you think. Just practice with your partner, siblings or parents—they don’t even have to know you’re practicing if you don’t want to tell them. All you have to do is ask a question, listen to what they are saying and then ask another question. At work you may already be practicing, or roleplaying, having a conversation with customers. Many people already know this skill, it’s naturally practiced with friends. But once you are in a social setting like a cocktail party or business networking meeting, the skill is forgotten. But that’s the time you need it the most, which is why practicing is so important, asking questions needs to be second nature.
There you have it, 3 steps to connecting with people through conversations. They may seem simple, but these skills are important, even in this digital world where texting is taking over phone conversations. So go out and have a conversation with someone, learn about them and expand your world.
Some resources to help with conversations:
Conversationally Speaking by Alan Garner**. Although this is an older book it gives a more in-depth discussion on open-ended questions and why closed questions are conversation killers along with chapters on listening and accepting constructive criticism.
BNI or Business Network International. If your business needs referrals of any kind, then this is the group to belong to. Not only will you make great connections with other businesses, but you’ll practice conversations as well as learn the art of selling your business in one minute or less.