There are clearly some people who have a gift of being able to talk to just about anyone, or about anything. When you experience someone who has this ability, it’s analogous for me to watching ice dancing. I chose this analogy because watching ice dancing at the highest level of performance is incredibly elegant to watch, and the skaters make what they do look so easy. Although we can only imagine how much time and practice it took to get to this level. Especially since they are always one small slip away from potential disaster.
Conversations can be fluid or awkward, and similar to ice dancers, are ripe for potential slip ups. The difference between how the conversations are navigated and the comparison to ice dancers diverges in one area. This area is that the ice dancers are practicing one dance, and most of the variables they will be contending with are stable. However, with conversations, the variables, even with a practiced conversation is where the divergence occurs. This is due to the fact there are so many additional factors which could contribute to making the conversation more difficult than the ice dancing, and which are out of the conversationalist’s control.
An example of a factor which a conversationalist can’t prepare for is someone else’s mood. Or, knowing how the other person’s history on this topic might impact the outcome of it. Another challenge for conversations is the level at which someone is able to converse. If one person is a highly accomplished conversationalist and they are speaking to someone who isn’t, the flow and outcome of the conversation is going to be much different. Now consider two other factors which will contribute to making the conversation more challenging.
The first factor has to do with hierarchy (e.g., work or sports team), and where each person in the conversation stands in this part of the equation. In this conversation scenario, the lower hierarchy person may not feel that they are able to say truly what they want to express. Perhaps out of respect, but also potentially out of fear of saying something which will lead to them losing opportunities for advancement, or worse, their role on a team or in the organization. Yes, these are extremes, but they are legitimate concerns people have when they are not equals in a conversation.
The second factor has to do with influence. Although logically you would think that in a hierarchical conversation that the higher-level person might have the advantage, this isn’t always true. In fact, it might be that the junior conversationalist has a higher ability to be more influential in their conversation style. If they do, this will provide them with an interesting advantage. An advantage that can offer them the skillset to have a stronger conversation flow and outcome which results in them obtaining either agreement. Or, the results of what they were seeking to have the conversation accomplish.
Being able to maintain the right emotional level during a conversation is also key, but not easy to achieve. Especially if the topic is highly emotionally charged. Managing through an emotional conversation is never easy, yet it’s one that everyone both personally and professionally needs to be able to navigate through. The key in successfully getting through this type of conversation is to be honest and let the other person know you may be emotional during it. By preparing the person you will be speaking with that this isn’t going to be a neutral conversation, each of you will be able to let down your guard to have a more open discussion.
I’m not in HR, but I recently read a statistic from the HR Review. It noted that 48% of Millennials reported they are having a hard time communicating with colleagues. Reading this stat was what prompted me to consider both reasons why this was occurring, but more importantly, to offer some potential solutions to consider addressing this difficulty. Below are some of my ideas to help making communicating with colleagues, or your teammates less difficult.
- Do you have some standard questions you can ask your colleague or teammate to open up the conversation? These of course would come after you genuinely asked them about how they are doing, and you carefully listened to what they said, and then responded accordingly. Most people will say they are doing “fine”, but occasionally they will tell you they are having a tough day.
- If you are tripped up by not knowing what standard questions to ask, a few of them might be to inquire about how their day is, or how their weekend went. You could also ask them if they are working on anything interesting right now, or working on improving some aspect of what they do professionally. Another question which you can ask is “What advice they have for maintaining the energy level they do?“ This question will likely throw them off, but in a good way. Why? Because it is intended to be both a compliment, and provides them with an opportunity to share something more personal about themselves which each of you can benefit from.
- Even if you don’t sense your colleague or teammate needs any help in their role, ask them if there is some aspect of what they do that they wish they could spend more time on, or have a higher level of support on? Listen carefully to their response, as there might be something they share with you that potentially you can help them with, or know someone who can.
- One of my favorite questions to ask anyone is what travel plans they have? If they don’t have any, you can ask them where they might like to travel some day? This will open up an opportunity to proceed with asking numerous follow-up questions relating to why they chose to travel to where they did? What did they like about where they went? What did they learn from their travel to that location? Would they recommend going there? What would they do differently relating to that trip if they were to go back?
- Another way of easing into conversations is to make sure your question is open-ended. In other words, don’t ask questions which can be responded to with one word.
- Seeking to find out what you have in common with someone is always an ideal way to easily have a conversation with them. Since so many people have pets, find out if your colleague or teammate has a pet. Perhaps they don’t have one now, but maybe they did, or perhaps they are researching to find out which pet they would like to add to their life? If you have a pet, you can also talk about the various aspects relating to your pet.
Ideally and easily being able to communicate with someone has to do with being open minded enough to find topics of conversation you can talk about with ease. Or, that are neutral enough so that even if you have nothing in common, there are plenty of topics that you both will have an opinion on. Being a strong conversationalist, like my analogy to professional ice dancing takes practice for the majority of people to master. So be kind to yourself as you begin the journey of learning how to communicate with ease. You’ll get there.
TAGS: #Communication #Business #Strategy #Howtocommunicatebetter #Teams #Colleagues #Teammates #Motivation #Conversationalists #Tipsonhowtocommunicatewithothers #HR #Personaldevelopment #Professionaldevelopment #Management #Success #Millennials #Leadership