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The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 1 of 2

The 12 Golden Rules of Great Conversation: Part 1 of 2
Golden Rules of Conversation
    Golden Rules of Conversation

    All great conversations share common elements. Familiarize yourself with each of the 12 Golden Rules, and you will improve your interpersonal communication skills immediately.

    1. Great Descriptions

    Do you want to sound more interesting? Then start with your descriptions. The best communicators use more creative names for things – instead of using obvious descriptive names, such as, “here’s some more beer…” try, “here’s some more poison…” or “here’s some more liquid courage…” or reference the commercial, “this Bud’s for you…” You get the idea? Don’t default to the trite word just because you’re used to always saying it that way.

    Advertisers and good writers know that using visual imagery and emotion is the fastest way to your heart (and wallet). People prefer visual imagery and emotionally packed words. Instead of saying “it was cold” you could say that you “couldn’t even feel your fingers.”

    Instead of: “That’s a huge burger!”

    Paint a picture: “That thing is a heart attack on a plate!”

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    Instead of: “I’m so upset, I’m gonna need to calm down.”

    Paint a picture: “I’m so upset, I’m gonna need to go buy a decaf iced coffee…”

    2. Great Contrasts and Comparisons

    What if I asked you how your trip to Disney World was? You could say something boring like, “It was fun…” Or you could include a quick contrast to make your phrase twice as interesting, “It was fun…no one fell off a roller coaster or anything…so it was fun…”

    You can always state what something is not like. “I’m very upset, not angry upset, but nervous upset.” Or “That’s not trickledown economics, that’s more like mist down economics…” People enjoy hearing contrasts. Stating an exception helps clarify, add contrast, and dimension.

    Many radio personalities use this technique to add balance and substance to their opinions (plus it helps them fill air time). Instead of saying, “I think he’s an excellent quarterback…” they may say something like, “I think he’s an excellent quarterback…now I’m not saying he’s Joe Montana…but he’s really good…”

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    When you use comparisons, don’t be afraid to expand and explain them. “She’s gorgeous, she’s at the highest level of gorgeous…higher than Kim Kardashian gorgeous… and it doesn’t get much higher than that…”

    3. Great Non-Verbal Communication

    Most experts agree – non-verbal communication is often more important than the words you speak. Psychologists have consistently discovered that people are the most drawn to those who have energy in their voice and mannerisms.

    Take your listener on a roller coaster ride. This is the greatest metaphor for figuring out how to use energy more effectively. You cannot simply inject energy into every word you speak and hope that works. The trick is to vary your energy and inflection. Stay away from a flat, monotone voice. When you speak, vary the energy you put into each word or phrase. Try to emphasize the important words. Vary your volume; speak slightly louder for important phrases. Treat your voice like a roller coaster – are you taking the audience on a fun ride or a boring ride? Are there some dips and lulls?

    Control your speed. Great conversationalists can change their speed at will. This works because when your speed never changes, your vocal patterns are predictable. And predictable = boring. Is it important? Then try saying it more slowly. Poor conversationalists tend to talk at the same rate and often too quickly. Speak in chunks, and don’t be afraid of a pause.

    Unconscious habits. Can any of the following nicknames describe you? Anxious Eyes? Statue Face? Mumble Mouth? Lethargic Larry? You may not even be aware of a bad habit; try to be more conscious of what your body does during an interaction. Ask a close friend for objective feedback.

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    Gesture more. People enjoy movement, and gesturing is an easy and free way to add this entertaining element to your conversations.

    4. Great Outlook

    Great conversationalists are always humble and have a positive outlook. They may qualify phrases with modest setups like, “I don’t know a lot, but I do know that she…”

    When they respond to someone, they look for the positive parts. Rather than saying, “That’s stupid” they say, “Well at least you didn’t have to ____ .”

    5. Great Human Traits

    It seems very obvious, but expressing human emotion is key to great conversation. Did they get a raise? Act thrilled and happy for them! Is this the first time seeing them in a few weeks? Act excited to see them! Are you eating a delicious piece of chocolate German cake – then say so! Describe how wonderful it is and how it makes you feel. Poor conversationalists often have difficulty expressing their emotions and feelings. If someone buys you a gift, just saying, “thank you” is not enough. Express your appreciation non-verbally as well. Conversations without the human elements can wither and die.

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    6. Great Intersecting Interests

    Everyone has a bucket of interests that they love to discuss. You may love talking about butterfly mating habits and the other person may love discussing fashion trends of 17th European Royalty. You may assume that if you just talk about the other person and their interests all day, the conversation will go along swimmingly. Not so. Good conversation is never one-sided. Even the most selfish people want to hear about your opinions and your thoughts and your interests sometimes. Great conversationalists are constantly searching for where their interests and their conversational partner’s interests intersect. Think Venn diagram. When you find these intersections of interests, keep the conversation honed in around those topics.

    What if they like to ski but you never have? At the very least, discuss a topic that is similar to the topic they enjoy. You could probably regale them with the story about how you went mountain climbing and they would still be interested.

    To be continued in Part 2…

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    Last Updated on May 22, 2020

    What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

    What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

    The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

    But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

    Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

    So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

    Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

    The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

    1. A Positive Attitude

    Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

    Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

    Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

    Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

    The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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    Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

    2. Confidence

    All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

    Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

    If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

    Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

    You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

    • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
    • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

    3. A Sense of Humor

    It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

    Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

    Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

    As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

    Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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    Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

    4. Ability to Embrace Failure

    No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

    Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

    Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

    Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

    Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

    By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

    You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

    5. Careful Listening and Feedback

    This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

    The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

    The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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    Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

    Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

    6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

    No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

    Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

    Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

    To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

    • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
    • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

    Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

    7. Growth Mindset

    Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

    Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

    Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

    It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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    Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

    8. Responsibility

    Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

    The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

    Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

    Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

    9. A Desire to Learn

    It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

    Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

    You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

    Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

    To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

    The Bottom Line

    Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

    Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

    More Tips on Leadership

    Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

    Reference

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