Being the owner of drafting and design firm teaches you many things, but I never suspected that it will challenge me to become a better conversationalist. Being a good communicator and conversationalist is not the key to a successful business, but it definitely helps.
As much as I don’t like to put labels on others or myself, I will say that I’m an introvert by nature. I’ve never been a “people” person or a “life of a party” type of a guy, not that there is anything wrong with that. It’s just not who I am. As an introvert I get “energized” by spending time alone in my study, designing, drafting, reading and reflecting. On the other hand, people who are more extroverted, feel more “alive” when they are in a crowd of people having conversations. As a result it’s more natural and easier for extroverts to start conversations.
Running a drafting and design firm from home for the last 15 months certainly challenged me to get out of my comfort zone. I have meetings with present and potential clients almost every day, on top of that I network with other designers and business owners. This means I have to constantly step out of my comfortable introverted mentality and be a good conversationalist. Looking back, I believe that being an introvert actually helped me in those conversations.
In no way I consider myself to be an expert conversationalist, I know that I have long ways to go, but below are 3 lessons I have learned so far about having better conversations. Even though these are very simple strategies, I strongly believe hat if you apply them, they will help you tremendously.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who kept interrupting you? How did that go? Exactly! No one likes being interrupted, but it happens so often, doesn’t it? Observing our culture I find it interesting how everyone wants to be heard, but no one wants to listen. You can take speech classes at your local community college, but there are no courses to aid you with becoming a better listener. I believe that listening is an art and it does not come naturally to everyone, but it is definitely a skill that can be acquired. Often, when talking to people I want to jump right in and “solve” their problems by giving a great advice, but sometimes the best thing I can do is just… well, listen. It is amazing how this simple skill of listening can help improve conversations.
#2 ASK QUESTIONS
Asking good questions is the key element to a good conversation. Good questions are like “road signs” that direct the conversation in the right way. In order for your questions to act like “road signs” they must be open-ended questions, meaning questions that generate discussion and insight. When you ask questions it shows that you are interested in what the other person is saying.
Also, asking the right questions is crucial when it comes to teaching or mentoring someone. Rather than telling someone what to do, try asking questions by which you can guide them to discover important insights into the problem. If you are mentoring or teaching someone, they may come to the solution to their problem by just talking through it with the guidance of your questions. I found this to be one of the most important strategies in my meetings.
#3 FOCUS ON BEING INTERESTED INSTEAD OF BEING INTERESTING
Sometimes, before people get into an important conversation they think, “How can I be more interesting? I need to share something interesting about my work, my education, my plans.” Often times the result of this approach is either an awkward or a boring conversation, because rather than enjoying the dialogue you are tense and stressed. Instead of thinking about yourself and how awesome you are, it’s better to go into the conversation thinking about the person you are going to converse with. It’s a “give rather than receive” mentality. Focus on being interested instead of being interesting.
So, these are the three things that I found to be helpful when it comes to having a good conversation, be genuinely interested in what they have to say, listen and ask the right questions. What are your strategies to a great conversation? Let me know what you think in the comments below.