Conversation is extremely powerful, we all know that. Great conversations illuminate, empower and connect. They help us understand other people, and ourselves, better. They’re the way we learn, and the way we build relationships at work and at play.
But after more than a year of limited social interactions, countless stilted Zoom meetings, and a general disconnection from normal life, many of us will be feeling pretty nervous about the state of our conversational skills!
Whether it’s meeting a work contact or client face to face for the first time in months, going on a date, or just meeting friends down the pub, the thought of holding a proper conversation might feel like an insurmountable challenge. Even the most confident chatterboxes amongst us may have forgotten how to connect in a meaningful and impactful way.
Luckily, there are some easy things you can do to polish up your chatting skills and get back into the conversational groove.
Six mindsets to adopt for better conversations
Be curious - show real interest in the people you’re meeting for the first time and those you haven’t seen for a long time. Ask questions, make eye contact and actively listen to the answers with your whole self. Mirror body language as they talk and play back key points raised.
Take off your mask – perhaps not your actual face mask depending on where you are (follow the rules people!) but attempt to lower that protective layer we all have put up to varying degrees. Try to be more open and personal without fearing vulnerability. It’s been a hard year for everyone.
Be empathetic – step imaginatively into the shoes of those to whom you speak! Acknowledge how they feel. Empathy is perhaps the greatest key to improving the quality of our conversations as trust is built and the connection will grow.
Get behind that job title – don’t assume that somebody’s job title is a reflection of who they are. We all know that there is more to life than work. Take some time to find out what makes them really tick.
Adventurous openings – move beyond the standard openers such as what do you do and where do you live, and practice asking some more creative ice breakers. A few of our favourites include: ‘what’s the first thing you remember from your childhood?’, ‘beach or mountains?, or ‘describe your favourite podcast and tell me why I should listen to it.’
Show courage – take the plunge and have those difficult conversations you’ve been avoiding. Make use of this time as a fresh start and clear the decks. And always try to be kind and bring the points above into play.
For those after a little more food for thought on the art of good conversations, ask yourself the questions below and also spend time reflecting on the answers. What you learn might surprise you and help you approach important conversations going forward.
- What has been the most surprising conversation you have ever had? What made it possible?
- What are the risks of being open about yourself and thoughts at work? And what are the potential benefits?
- How might you go about discovering and dispelling mistaken assumptions that people might have about you?
- What are your personal approaches to difficult conversations?
- What further courageous conversations do you need to have with others or yourself?
Having a career conversation with another Voco member is also a great way to rediscover your conversational skills and put them into practice to help you the progress you want at work. Apply to join Voco now and start having meaningful conversations with relevant peers who can help you take control of your career.
More on how to have great conversations
Brené Brown: Let's rumble
The School of Life: On the art of conversation