Conversation hog: Someone who must be the center of attention in all conversations and will not let someone get a word in edgewise. This person can continue with sentence after sentence without breathing. It is truly an endurance feat.
— Urban Dictionary.
Do you know people who spend more time talking about what they want to say than caring about what you may want to hear? These types always talk about themselves and what’s happening in their lives, without seeming to care about how your day is going or what’s new in your world.
It’s not hard to be more considerate than that. A true leader knows when to speak, when to ask questions, and when to listen. In my mind they should all be about in equal proportions.
To brush up on conversation etiquette, here are eight tips—in two parts— to think about and ask yourself each time you are on the telephone or in the company of another person, whether at a business meeting, event, a social party, talking to a friend or neighbour, or at home with family:
1. Begin conversations with a cordial question. Be the first to ask a pleasant question, including “How’s your day going?” “What’s new in your world?” or a question that gets the other person to answer with more than a yes or no. If the other person happens to ask a question first, answer it, but then ask a question in return.
2. Converse in equal time slots. Conversations are not meant to be one sided, where one person talks while the other person listens. There is a delicate balance between how much talking one person should do over the other. It should be relatively equal. If you are not hearing a balance in your conversations, something’s wrong!
3. Listen. It is said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.” Care more about listening to the other person than about what you want to say next. Here are two examples of sticky situations: The person you’re talking with moves to a new subject, and you want to stick to the old one. Or he or she asks a question and you want to continue the conversation that came before it.
In the first example, preface the comment with something like: “Oh, one more comment on the old subject is…” This shows the other person you were listening and paying attention, yet wanted to share your thoughts. In the second example, make every effort to answer questions before moving forward. Even to say, “Oh, let me answer that later,” then continue with your comments is better than ignoring it as though you did n’t hear the question at all.
A great exercise is what I call the “instant replay technique.” In your head, practice repeating what the other person just said. This will take your focus off what you are thinking and turn the focus back toward the other person. In some instances, repeat the comment or question aloud as a sign you heard what they said. This can also help to tie in your next comment. The more you practice the “instant replay technique,” the better listener you will become, able to participate in the flow of conversation at its optimum level.
4. Make sure people are interested in what you have to say. Even though I thoroughly enjoy certain television shows and certain wines and foods, I don’t discuss these subjects with people who have little or no interest in them. Learn what interests other people before going on and on. Ask questions to determine a fit, such as: “Do you have a favourite television show?” “What kind of shows do you watch most often?”
Do not assume just because this person says they like opera or gardening they are into hearing every little detail. Gauge their level of interest first by how well they are hanging on your every word. Be sensitive to whether the person is truly listening and engaged in what you are saying. Be aware, if you notice the person breaking eye contact, shuffling their feet, yawning, or nodding or saying words that don’t sound genuine, you may be boring them to death.
That’s all for this month. Tune in next month for the balance of 4 tips, well in time to begin the New 2013 year with great conversation skills.
Syndi Seid is the recognized world’s leading authority on business protocol. Read more at www.advancedetiquette.com/blog and subscribe to receive more articles directly.