Top tips of building conversational competence in the workplace

A CONVERSATION in the workplace has the potential to degenerate into an argument where even the most trivial of issues can be the root of it.

The issue could have someone fight passionately for it or against it and it can make or break a situation within a split second.

American radio personality and opera singer Celeste Headlee says: “A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somehow along the way, we have lost that balance. Part of that is due to technology,”

In a Ted Talk conference, Headlee spoke about her personal realisation of conversational competence and how that might be the most overlooked skill failed to be mastered. Headlee attributed our inability of honing interpersonal communication skills to hours spent on our phones that disabled us in sustaining coherent, confident conversations.

According to a recent study, thousands of adults were found to be more divided than ever in history. They were less likely to compromise and were inattentive to the needs and opinions of other people.

Striking an interesting, fun conversation and the realisation that you are losing a person’s attention can cause some people to sweat.

Headlee lists nine ways to tap into your conversational side in the workplace.

1. Don’t multi-task, be in the present

Don’t fidget with your phone and car keys while having a conversation with a colleague because you could create a hot mess of the situation.

Don’t let your day’s occurrences play out in your mind while conversing. If you want to get out of a conversation, get out of the conversation, but don’t be half in it and half out of it.

2. Don’t preach, be willing to learn

Enter into a conversation assuming that you have something to learn.

Sometimes that means setting aside your own opinions.

3. Use open-ended questions

Start with questions with “who, what, when, where, why or how”.

If you ask a complicated question, chances are that you will get a simple answer.

Ask questions that will cause people to pause and think about, triggering an interesting response.

4. Go with the flow

As thoughts come into mind, let them out.

Don’t always pre-plan your questions. Let the moment inspire your thoughts and conversation topics.

5. If you don’t know something, say it

Don’t act as if you know everything, even if you can’t fathom what was said to you.

If you don’t know something and you pretend to, it can end up badly.

6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs

If someone tells you about the problems they are experiencing at work, don’t talk about how much you hate your boss. It’s not the same.

You shouldn’t compare your feelings and situations to someone else’s.

7. Try not to repeat yourself

It is condescending.

Don’t make the same point over and over again.

8. Listening

Listening is one of the most important skills we should cultivate.

“Why do we not listen to each other? We would rather talk. When I’m talking, I’m in control. We learn more when we listen and vice versa,” Headlee advises.

9. Be brief

Cut the long story short. Nobody likes to be spoken to in riddles.

According to Headlee, a good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.

You will be amazed at how well people take to you if you are attentive and understand how a conversation should be. Show interest in people and be open to learning just by listening.

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