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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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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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