Conversation Primer: Ask, Listen, Respond Appropriately

It’s December 18.  Christmas is one week away.  Chanukah starts on Monday December 22.  The Winter Solstice is Sunday December 21.  Kwanzaa begins on Friday December 26.  In short, it’s the holiday season.  I don’t know about you, but I like celebrations, so I celebrate all of the winter holidays – regardless of the tradition in which they are based.

Seriously, this is a time for getting together with friends and family.  There are lots of social events this time of year.  Social events provide you with an opportunity to work on your conversation skills.  Why not mix a little self development in with the fun?

As I discuss in Straight Talk for Success, dynamic communication is one of the keys to personal and professional success.  People who are dynamic communicators have mastered three skills: conversation, writing and presenting.

There are two things you can do to develop your conversation skills at holiday parties: ask questions and listen.  As you are getting ready for an event, remind yourself to ask and listen.  When you arrive, put these to tools to work.

Ask questions, whether you’re speaking with old friends or people you’ve just met.  Really listen to their answers.  Respond appropriately to show you’ve been listening.  People like to talk about themselves.  Give them the opportunity to do so by asking questions and listening.  You’ll be the most popular person at the party.

There are a couple of benefits to doing this at holiday parties.  First, you’ll learn some interesting things about other people.  I was speaking with a friend I’ve known for 25 years yesterday.  We were chatting about a lot of things.  I learned a lot of things about her early life that I never knew before.  None of what I learned was earth shattering news, but I came away from the conversation with a new and different perspective on her.  We both felt a little closer to each other because of this conversation, questions I asked her and her answers.

Second, you will be getting some great practice for work conversations in 2009.  The people who do the best at networking events, are the people who ask the most questions of the people they meet.  The best sales people are the ones who take the time to understand customer needs.  How do they do this?  By asking questions. 

Mix in some work with fun at the holiday parties you attend this year.  Use these events as an opportunity to sharpen your conversation skills. 

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people are dynamic communicators.  Dynamic communicators are great conversationalists.  You get to be known as a great conversationalist by asking questions of others, really listening to what they have to say and responding in a manner that keeps the focus on them.  Holiday parties provide a great opportunity to practice this “ask, listen, respond appropriately” conversation model.  Try it, you’ll find it will lead to some fascinating conversations this holiday season.  More important, you’ll be practicing the conversation skills that will serve you well in the new year.  Besides that, if you use holiday parties to practice your conversation skills, you’ll be less likely to drink too much and do something you might regret when you see the video on YouTube! 

That’s my take on how to practice your conversation skills this holiday season.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment letting us know what you think.  Thanks for reading.  Happy Holidays!


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