There is one skill that is incredibly basic, but under-represented in the modern business community: the art of conversation.
The opinions expressed by collaborators are personal.
Every entrepreneur needs countless skills , from a creative brain to logical analysis and decision making. And these skills range from specific to basic, such as time management and more complex, which are unique to your industry and are acquired only through experience.
But there is one skill that is incredibly basic, not yet representative in the modern community of entrepreneurs: the art of conversation.
It all starts with a conversation
Your conversation skills are a deciding factor in how several important experiences progress through the course of your business leadership:
- Present your business plan to investors, convince them to invest, and listen to their ideas and feedback.
- Have your first clients and convince them to stay with you.
- Choose your team members through interviews, retain them and make sure of their high morale.
- Manage, organize and delegate tasks in the daily fundamentals.
- Gather team and customer feedback and make improvements.
Conversation, in fact, is a fundamental skill that will literally affect every area of your business. There is still no “conversation” class in business schools, and we rarely get a chance to criticize our own performance.
How to be a good conversationalist: five tips
Fortunately, there are some changes in habits, exercises, and general considerations that can help you become a better conversationalist, overall:
1. Pay attention. Tons of articles recommend acting like you're paying attention by making eye contact, assisting with your head, and repeating what the other person told you. But as TED speaker Celeste Headlee humorously points out, why would you need to act as if you are paying attention if you are, in fact, paying attention? When you talk, then, not only do you wait for your next opportunity to speak, you really listen to what the other person is saying, absorb it and reflect on it. You will understand what the speaker means to you more clearly and respond more appropriately.
2. Ask open-ended questions. The common advice for having a better conversation is to ask more questions, but that only tells you half the story. You can't just ask a series of quick questions and hope you have good answers. Instead, ask open-ended questions that force the respondent to give more meaningful information. Don't ask, “Do you like our new website? That forces you to say “yes” or “no,” which closes the conversation and gives you little information to work with. Instead, consider something more open, like: “What do you think of our new website?”
3. Let the conversation take its course. During the course of the conversation, many twists and turns will arise. Let that happen in the most natural way possible. Many thoughts and points of conversation will enter your mind, but do not interrupt the flow to appear, it is okay to let them go. Your goal here is to keep the dialogue going, at a positive pace, unless it deviates far from your intended direction, let these natural changes unfold.
4. Err on the side of caution. People will trust your word, so be careful what you commit to and what it implies that you know. For example, if a customer asks if you can customize your software with new tools, don't answer “yes” just to keep the conversation moving (unless the answer is “yes,” for sure). Instead, “I don't know” is a perfect and acceptable answer, as long as you continue to get the answers over time. Doing this will allow your conversations to set more reasonable expectations and place you as a more powerful authority.
5. Skip the details unless necessary. Concision is a powerful tool that makes your words more meaningful and helps you keep the conversation going at the same time. This does not mean that you should answer in fragments of just a few words, but that you should avoid dredging any detail that is unnecessary for your objectives. For example, if you're not going to meet a deadline, but you have a plan to complete the job in another day or two, don't bother explaining to your client all the dominoes that fell at this point. Instead, keep things at that level, unless the customer asks for more details.
In short, it takes time to become a better conversationalist, just as it takes time to become better at anything, but the more energy and time you invest in this skill, the more rewards you will earn in your future commitments. What's more, being a better conversationalist is more than just a line in your CV, it is helping you to be a best friend, family member and perhaps a better stranger.
You will connect with people more deeply and significantly, and you will experience very few misunderstandings. Who does not want this?