LOL, TTYL, TY and IMHO might be part of the way we communicate today, but it’s got me wondering how it affects our relationships. After all, conversations are the building blocks of relationships. They are what give relationships substance. Unfortunately, we live in the digital age, when people think they don’t have the time for real conversations.

Here are five reasons for relearning the art of conversation:

  1. It’s the glue that holds together great relationships. You can email someone regularly, but it is only during a real conversation that your bond strengthens. Think about this in terms of your professional life. Whom do you trust more — the wholesaler you meet with regularly throughout the year or the one who communicates only via email? Sure, you might enjoy doing business with both, but when push comes to shove, your relationship with the wholesaler you see regularly is probably stronger.
  2. It’s the only way to see what someone’s saying. Face-to-face conversation is the only way to take in the entirety of what someone is saying. It allows you to take in inflection, emotion and physical gestures along with the words being spoken. It also allows you to show your conversation partner that you really are listening and truly value what he has to say. Skype fulfills a need — yes. But nothing can replace a face-to-face interaction.
  3. It’s an opportunity-making skill. Being a conversationalist can lead to great opportunities. It’s more difficult to cross-sell new products to your current clients when you communicate only via email. More often than not, opportunities are moved to the agreement stage during a phone or in-person communications.
  4. 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 encountered someone who just wants to listen to you, wants to hear all about your day, your recent trip? Someone who is truly interested in you? You may not come across such people very often, but when you do, you know you are valued. When you speak with someone and listen to what he has to say, you are showing him you value him as a human being.
  5. It’s not necessary to be the most outgoing person in the room. Anyone can participate in or initiate a great conversation. The only requirement is that you are authentically interested in what someone else has to say. Really listen to your conversation partner — you never know what you might learn.

If you’ve lost your appreciation for the art of conversation, it’s time to re-open that door. Behind it are stronger relationships, better business opportunities and a more satisfying way to serve your clients.

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Maribeth Kuzmeski is the founder of Red Zone Marketing, LLC, which consults to Fortune 500 firms on strategic marketing planning and business growth. For more information, go to www.redzonemarketing.com.