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The Art of Conversation

February 14, 2013

In all facets of business, success stems from one fluid idea. This idea is lost unless the creator articulates it; and ultimately an idea is useless until it’s shared. As a result, I think conversation is arguably the most important aspect of creating influence in the professional world.

Borrowing a phrase from Milton Wright; “To chatter is easy. To talk resultfully with the hostile, suspicious, indifferent or even friends is an art.” In other words, anyone can chitchat, but it requires conversational finesse to build secure relationships and establish credibility.

Mr. Wright also mentions that in order to become a great communicator, (which I assume takes a lifetime) we must “acquire the habit of conscientiously stocking your mind with facts and information and then forming opinions on the basis of that knowledge.” In a snapshot, he’s emphasizing the significance of an elevator pitch. Know your stuff, have an opinion, and be able to express why it is meaningful – not only to you – but to your elevator comrade as well.

Now this is easier said than done. The nature of this type of dialogue is quite delicate, like a painter’s final strokes. Keep in mind that a monologue is not a conversation. A great conversationalist gets that this elevator pitch requires careful maneuver and strategic delivery – it must be engaging, which takes years to master. To plant a suggestion in someone else’s head is the key test of conversational skill. This is why business development can be a tough gig!

Silence also plays a crucial part in effective conversation, just as it does in music. Wright stresses the importance of being silent, and listening. You already know everything there is to know about yourself, so why not learn about your counterpart? “Just ask the right questions. Stay open-ended and allow room for description and introspection. Ask how, or why, or who”, suggests Jeff Haden from Inc.com

In a very general sense, there are two types of conversation: (1) Conversation for its own sake; and (2) Conversation for some other purpose. The former is a fun and effortless part of the everyday (banter by the water cooler), and the latter demands a more artful approach (winning over a prospective client).

I think our friend Milton would agree that in all business-related dialogue, as long as you are cultivating sincerity and genuine interest, you are painting the early foundations of a very pretty picture.

-Stacey Rosehill

We help organizations thrive by building strong leadership teams & driving sustainable growth.

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