Conversations in the workplace can take an infinite variety of forms, from water-cooler gossip to ideas development to disciplinary dressing-down: what they have in common, though, is that each one can have an impact on your relationships, your reputation, and your career in general. Fortunately, there are a number of principles that can be applied across the board to ensure you can have more meaningful conversations at work.
Get your conversational skills up to scratch, and you will not only improve your daily experience and results but leave a mark that will be remembered by the movers and shakers of your industry in years to come.
This doesn’t mean centralising your own presence in a conversation. In fact, you are likely to make more meaningful connections with the people with whom you speak if you divert that energy into investigating their ideas, information, and feelings. Believe it or not, talking about yourself actually creates pleasure for by releasing dopamine in your brain; no wonder some people are hard to stop once they’ve got started! The experience is rarely as pleasurable for the listener, though, so it’s better to engage with their point of view and use stories and anecdotes to back up your points, rather than “I think this…” or “I would do it that way.”
That’s not to say it should all be strictly shop-talk. Chatting about things other than work is a great way to form stronger bonds and illuminate new aspects of the people with whom you spend the day. Enquire about hobbies, or films and books that you might have in common, and an exchange of opinions can warm things up before you get to business.
Once you’re ready to get started, you’ll find that listening is the key. Sharing your big ideas can certainly make an impact – but they’re likely to be stronger if you’re a good listener, and to get more attention if they take on board the thoughts and feelings of the person you’re chatting with.
That means putting down your phone, observing the other guy’s tone and body language, and holding off from forming replies in your head while they’re still talking. If you need a moment or two to formulate your reply after they’ve finished, that’s fine – it’s better than missing half of what they said because you were too busy trying to counter their arguments internally before they even finished!
Once it’s your turn to talk, never underestimate the power of asking questions. Questions show that you’re engaged, open up new pockets of information that might otherwise have been missed, and are also a good way of conveying your own point of view without seeming forceful.
The art of conversation is criminally overlooked in most forms of professional training. Try working through this new visual guide from OnStride, and you’re likely to see a positive response in the workplace starting tomorrow.
How are you trying to have more meaningful conversations at work? Let us know in the comments below.