It was almost two years ago to the day that we experienced our initial “stay-at-home” mandates as a result of Covid-19. California was the first to issue such an order on March 19, 2020. One by one most states fell in line, and our lives changed forever. Who could have predicted how different our professional and personal lives would be in just two years?
One thing that has stood out for me has been the loss of our conversation skills. Covid has kept us more than six feet apart. The Internet has become our primary means of communication. While Zoom, FaceTime and other online platforms have allowed us to see each other’s faces, they do not offer the kind of connection we have when we are in the same room or space with others.
We are so accustomed to being apart that rather than pick up the phone, we text. Talking directly to someone else is uncomfortable. When we receive an invitation to an event or an in-person meeting, we try to find reasons not to go. The barriers to one-on-one conversation keep building.
Engaging with others is a must in the business world if you want to build relationships with clients and colleagues. This might be the time to revisit the do’s and don’ts of the art of conversation.
The Conversation Creator
Like so much in life, good conversation is a matter of maintaining balance. It is a blend of speaking and listening. Paying attention to and following up on what other people are saying is crucial to keeping a natural flow.
The person who speaks less and listens more is a “Conversation Creator.” The Creator remembers starter words like “who,” “what,” “when,” “why,” and “how.” The best phrase of all in conversation is “tell me about ….”
The Conversation Killer
On the other hand, people with the best intentions can kill a conversation without realizing it. There are a few classic types who have earned the title “Conversation Killer.” Try not to land on this list.
The Bore: The person who talks on and on about himself and shows no interest in others.
The Interrogator: The person who read that asking questions is the secret to good dialogue so that is all he does until he has worn the other person down to a nub.
The Interrupter: The person who does not take time to hear you out. Instead, he continually jumps in to finish your sentences. Pauses make the interrupter uncomfortable.
The Advisor: The person who feels obligated to give advice on whatever you say even though you never asked for it. Keep your opinions to yourself unless you hear, “What would you do?” or “What do you think?”
Chatty Cathy: The person who talks way too much. She does not realize that people seldom regret what they left unsaid.
Your conversation skills may be rusty, but you have not lost them. Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with others in this new world. There are good questions you can ask to get a post-pandemic conversation flowing. Ask what people did to survive stay-at-home. Ask what the most challenging part of working from home was. Ask what they liked the best working on their own. Ask how Covid has affected their lives. You get the picture.
Sometimes making conversation feels like work, but you are trying to establish relationships, grow your business and be more profitable. Being a conversation creator is part of the job.