6 Keys to Conversation and Career Success

I had a conversation with a prospective new client the other day.  It went particularly well.  It appears as if I will get some significant new consulting business as a result.  As I thought about the conversation that evening, I realized that I followed my own career success advice as presented in Tweets 106 and 107 in my career advice book, Success Tweets.

Tweet 106 says, “Demonstrate your understanding of others’ points of view.  Listen well and ask question if you don’t understand.”  Tweet 107 says, “Become an excellent conversationalist by listening more than speaking.  Pay attention to what other people say; respond appropriately.”

The conversation I mentioned above was a sales call.  You’d think that I’d want to do most of the talking in a sales call.  After all, the purpose of the conversation was to make a sale.  I needed to explain all of the ways I could help this guy and his company.

But that’s not the way things work.  By listening to what he had to say, I got a very good understanding of his problems and concerns.  As he spoke about them, he began to convince himself that he needed my services.  I had to say very little. 

Basically, I listened to what he said.  I made sure that he knew I understood his problems and concerns; I asked questions and I summarized as he spoke.  When the time was right, I shared a couple of stories about my experiences, but in the context of what he was saying.  By doing these three simple things, it became apparent to him that I had the sort of experience that he needs. 

By the time we were finished with the conversation, he was comfortable with me – as a person and as a professional who understands him and his needs.  We set a follow up date to move forward with a consulting project.  In that conversation, I’ll lay out my plan for moving forward and the costs associated with it.  I wish all sales calls were this easy.

This sales call went great because I followed six important conversation steps.

1. Acknowledge the other person as an equal.  You cannot have a good conversation if you don’t recognize one another as equals.  Regardless of your hierarchical relation to the other person – if he or she is your boss, peer or subordinate – remember that we are all human beings.  As such, we are entitled to respect and dignity.  Talk with people, not to them and you’ll be surprised at the quality of your discussions.

2. Stay curious about the other person.  People are fascinating.  I have had some of the most interesting conversations with limo and cab drivers.  Often they are immigrants.  It’s interesting to hear their take on life in the USA.  Be curious about the people you know, too.  People are always growing and changing.  When you express your curiosity you’ll be bound to find out new and interesting things about old friends and acquaintances.

3. Recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners.  Help others listen.  Think before you speak.  Speak clearly.  Ask them questions; answer the questions they ask you.  Ccommunication in general and conversation in particular is a process fraught with potential misconnects.  So listen hard to others and make it easy for them to listen to you.

4. Slow down to have the time to think and reflect.  When you slow down, you do indeed have time to think.  Don’t be afraid to pause and reflect on a question.  This shows the other person that you are carefully considering your response – not just saying the first thing that comes to mind.  Other people will appreciate you for your thoughtfulness, not knock you for not being quick or clever enough.

5. Remember that conversation is the natural way for humans to think together.  I love this idea.  The idea of “thinking together” is great career advice.  The world would be a better place if we all “thought together” instead of thinking separately and trying to convince others that our thoughts are better than theirs.  Since this is the season, I would love to see political debates where the candidates worked together to develop an approach to handling a problem or issue – instead of watching them advance their ideas while taking swipes at the other person’s ideas.

6. Expect it to be messy at times.  Conversation is messy.  That’s OK.  In fact, I think it’s great.  Some of the best ideas come out of messy conversations.  The willingness to get into the mess and slop around is what frees your creativity.

I really like the last point – expect it to be messy.  My sales conversation the other day was very messy.  While we stayed on track overall, we also discussed David Beckham, Manchester United Football Club, The King’s Speech, Upstairs Downstairs, bachelor parties and the history of the labor movement in the USA.  Did I mention that this guy is a Brit?  He was impressed with my knowledge of his country and his favorite sport – football, or soccer, as we American’s call the game.  All of this made him more comfortable with me as another human being – not just some consultant come calling to sell him something.

The common sense career success coach point here is simple.  Successful people are great conversationalists.  They follow the career advice in Tweets 106 and 107 in Success Tweets.  “Demonstrate your understanding of others’ points of view.  Listen well and ask questions if you don’t understand.”  “Become an excellent conversationalist by listening more than speaking.  Pay attention to what other people say; respond appropriately.”  Listening takes a bit of work, but it is worth it in the long run.  It will help you become a dynamic communicator and build solid relationships that will fuel your life and career success.  Remember my six keys for conversation success.  They are great career advice.  1) Acknowledge one another as equals; 2) Stay curious about one another; 3) Recognize that we need each other’s help to become better listeners; 4) Slow down to have the time to think and reflect; 5) Remember that conversation is the natural way for humans to think together; 6) Expect it to be messy at times.

That’s my career advice on conversation and career success.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success.  I appreciate you and I value you.


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