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5 Conversation and Interaction Tips

5 Conversation and Interaction Tips

I had a phone call yesterday with someone very important, and important to me. But for the life of me, I couldn’t recall a single word of what we’d talked about. (If I’d followed my own hack and written the conversation directly into the contact notes section in Gmail, I’d be saved, but I didn’t.) I really faltered for a short while, so this gave me some thoughts on how it could go differently in the future.

Conversation and Interaction Tips

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  • If you’ve met someone only once or twice before, and then run into them at a conference or other social gathering, introduce yourself again, complete with some tidbits from the last talk. Say, “Hey Heidi. I’m Chris Brogan. We talked at PodCamp Boston about video podcasting for farmers.” That way, she has every chance in the world to save “face,” and also get immediately back into the time frame of when she met you, and what happened. This works much better than, “Hey Heidi!” and then you wait to see if they remember you. That’s really just low-handed at that point.
  • If you’re forgetful, state it up front. Don’t try to play catch up. “I’m really sorry, Russ. I know we were having this call to talk about something important, but I can’t find my notes, and I’m blanking. Could you lead off?” It’s straightforward, and gets the other person on your side. (Only a jerk would be terribly offended).
  • Make that person number one. It’s just downright rude to do the crowdsurfing eyeball thing while talking with someone. But here’s one way to move through a crowd a little faster. Upon shaking hands and reconnecting, make your first statement after re-acquainting yourself, “Oh Casey, I have so much I want to talk with you about, but I’ve got to run off in just a second. Will you be around for a while?” Then, you can have a few minutes of conversation, putting Casey at the focus of your attention, and she’ll understand when you have to leave after a few minutes. Be honest about this.
  • Share the wealth. You’re passionate, and want to tell the other person all about your project and your perspective, but be sure to ask them engaging questions about what he or she are doing. Be genuinely interested. Find out what they’re passionate about. Learn as much in those few minutes as you can, because it’s way more fun than talking about the weather.
  • Close with something actionable. If you need NOTHING from this person, ask them, “How can I help you with your goals? What can I be thinking about in my day to help you be successful?” If you have needs, ask them to consider contacting you for a follow-up meeting, or for whatever you need. Taking donations? Ask them if you can help them decide on sending money to your event? (I’m doing a lot of that now). It will make the conversation feel more valuable.

There are variations, and this isn’t exactly for every conversation you have, but I think these tips will be useful to your interactions around professional settings. I’m learning more than anything else in this new world that the connections you make are more important than any line of code you write, or any song you perform. It’s what you do to grow your personal network and develop a system of friends and colleagues that will sustain you in the future.

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–Chris Brogan is passionately creating an audio and video podcast company. He writes about it often at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s also co-founder and Organizer of PodCamp Boston, and is looking for participants and donations alike. Stop by.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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