LOL, EOD, BRB, TY and YW might be key communication elements in a texting, emailing, social-media-obsessed world, but they don’t make for high-quality conversation. Heck, sometimes you might not even know what your communicating counterpart is saying to you.
With communication becoming more and more diluted by technology, I would like to stress the importance of once again valuing great conversation — an essential element in building strong, mutually beneficial and even profitable relationships.
Conversations are the building blocks of relationships. Without them, we form relationships that are devoid of substance. Unfortunately, we live in a world where the modern MO seems to be less talking, more texting. People either think they don’t have the time or don’t think it’s necessary to have real conversations with each other. But for anyone who wants to create truly beneficial relationships, you have to stop texting, walk away from the computer and connect with someone one-on-one through a great conversation.
Mastering the art of conversation goes a long way when you’re trying to connect with another person. Follow that conversation to its conclusion, and you never know what you will find out. The point is you have to be willing to have it in the first place, and that is something that too few of us value these days.
Read on to learn eight reasons why now’s the time to re-master the art of conversation.
1. It puts quality ahead of speed. Today, you can find out almost anything you’d ever want to know in seconds. You can rattle off a text faster than you can dial someone’s number. You can send an email out to multiple contacts in a couple of minutes. But with this speed of communication, you often sacrifice quality, and, ultimately, this sacrifice leaves you with paper-thin relationships.
Texting, IMing, and emailing provide great ways to communicate, but there is a one-sidedness to the kind of communication they allow. There is a delay in the actual exchange of ideas that doesn’t exist when you are speaking with someone. With these methods, the chances are also higher you will be misunderstood or you will misunderstand the other person because there’s no way to capture tone and feeling in a way that ensures it won’t be confused. To truly express yourself and allow others to express themselves, conversation provides the highest quality of communication.
2. It’s the glue of great relationships. You can email or text someone regularly, but it is only during a real conversation that a bond with him or her actually begins to strengthen. Think about this in terms of your professional life. Who do you trust more? The vendor who always calls you or the one who only communicates via email?
Sure, you might enjoy doing business with both of them, but when it comes right down to it, your relationship with the vendor you regularly speak to is probably stronger. Conversation is essential in all relationships. If you can’t hold a conversation with another person, your relationship will quickly break down.
3. It’s the only way to see what someone is saying. Face-to-face conversation is the only way to take in the total message someone is sending. It allows you to take his or her inflection, emotion and physical gestures into account along with what is actually being said. It also allows you to show that person you are listening and truly value what he or she has to say. Your face, eyes and body language allow you to give a range of emotions that indicates whether you are following what the speaker is saying.
4. It’s an opportunity-making skill. Being a great conversationalist can lead to great opportunities, both in your professional and social lives. The best, most comfortable client meetings are those that feel like normal conversations — a give and take between two or more people who genuinely want to learn about one another. Life’s opportunities are sealed with conversation, not texting or emailing.
5. It’s a great way to invest in others. The act of listening — the other half of having a great conversation — shows people you care. Have you ever been around someone who just wants to listen to you, wants to hear all about your day or your recent trip? Someone who is truly interested in you? You might not find them very often, but when you do, they really stick out. When you speak with someone and listen to what he or she has to say, you are showing that person you value him or her. And the wonderful thing is, in the flow of a great conversation, he or she is giving that courtesy right back to you.
6. It is not a requirement to be the most outgoing person in the room. If you’ve been using your shyness or lack of eloquence as an excuse for relying on technology for most of your communication, now’s the time to stop. Being outgoing is not a requirement for participating in or initiating a great conversation. The only requirements are that you be authentic and show you value what the other person has to say. You don’t have to say anything profound. You don’t have to impress people with your every word. You simply have to participate, actively listen, and be open and honest in what you say.
7. It’s the best way to mend a broken relationship. There are some situations in business and in life that should only be handled via a conversation. The bottom line is sometimes an email or a text just won’t cut it. Mending a broken relationship is one of those situations. When you’re in trouble with a client or you’ve hurt a friend’s feelings, you have to get up and go see the person or, at the very least, pick up the phone and call, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable for you. Have breakfast with the person. Have a lunch meeting. No matter what you do, get in front of him or her.
Your client will appreciate that you’ve shown up during tough times. This is how you begin to rebuild trust, something that will be very difficult to achieve if all you’re doing is pushing the “Send” button.
8. It makes life better. The ultimate bottom line, when it comes to mastering the art of conversation, is that it makes life better — plain and simple. If you’ve lost an appreciation for the art of conversation, it’s time to re-open that door. Behind it are stronger relationships, more opportunities and a more satisfying way of living. When you focus your efforts on having great conversations every day, you’ll see great things start to fall into place.
Maribeth Kuzmeski, M.B.A., is the author of five books, including “…And the Clients Went Wild! How Savvy Professionals Win All the Business They Want” (www.AndTheClientsWentWild.com) and “The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life” (www.TheConnectorsBook.com). She is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, which consults with businesses from entrepreneurial firms to Fortune 500 corporations on strategic marketing planning and business growth. An internationally recognized speaker, she shares the tactics that businesspeople use today to create more sustainable business relationships, sales and marketing successes. For more information, please visit www.RedZoneMarketing.com.
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