Being an excellent conversationalist is part science and part art. For most of us, it takes practice to be successful at communicating.
There are plenty of little tricks and strategies you can use to enhance your conversation experience. You’ll enjoy your conversations more, and so will the other person. Conversation skills are great for advancing your career and social life.
Practice these 9 techniques to enhance your conversation skills:
- Lower your requirements for success. When it comes to making small talk at a party, too often we want to be the most amazing conversationalist the world has ever seen. It’s not necessary to be the “best” anything to leave a positive impression or to have a successful conversation. By lowering your performance requirement, you can relax and be a better conversation partner.
- Ask better questions. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to say too much during many conversations. Just a few, well-chosen questions can keep the other person talking for quite a while. Ask open-ended questions about something meaningful to the other person and just kick back and relax. Good questions are an easy way to keep the other person engaged in the conversation.
- Listen well. Listening is half of the conversation. Keep your eyes and attention on the other person. Think about what is being said. Avoid thinking about what you want to say next. Just keep your attention on what’s being said to you.
- Ensure that you’re both understood. Make sure you heard what you thought you heard. Verify that you’ve been understood, too. Good communication requires that the relayed information was received and understood.
- Wait your turn. Avoid interrupting someone. Just because you’re done listening doesn’t mean they were done speaking. Wait until the other person is done talking and then feel free to respond. The other person will appreciate the consideration.
- Be interesting. Unless there was recently a tornado or a record high temperature, no one other than a meteorologist wants to talk about the weather. Have a couple of good stories ready to go at a moment’s notice. One easy way to be interesting is to stay on top of current events. Watch the news while you sweat your cares away on the treadmill. However you manage it, ensure you know what’s going on in the world. If you know what the other person is passionate about, you can use that as a conversation topic.
- Be open and honest, but polite. Honesty and openness are refreshing. Too many people are overly concerned with being politically correct or socially acceptable. This isn’t an excuse to be rude but having an opinion that you’re willing to share puts you head and shoulders above most.
- Show enthusiasm for the chance to speak with the other person. Make the other person feel special.You know how good it feels when someone is excited to see you. See if you can create a similar feeling in the other person.
- End the conversation when the time is right. It’s better to go out on a high note than after the conversation has died. This way, they’ll be eager to speak with you again soon.
We aren’t taught how to be great conversationalists in school, but we should be. It’s a valuable skill that can help your career. It can also allow you to have a more enjoyable time at social events. It can give a great boost to your social life in general. Take advantage of every opportunity to work on your conversation skills.
If you want to learn more about leveling up your communication and leadership skills, visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Pres> Read More
Loneliness and social isolation are becoming a behavioral epidemic, resulting in increased depression, anxiety, and suicide rates. I’ve experienced loneliness at times and know how brutal it can be. I’ve also witnessed first-hand how emotionally and mentally destructive it can be to my family, friends, and peers. We need connection, we need community, we need each other.
Today, it’s challenging to have a great social life. This was true even before Covid-19 became an issue.
In the not-so-distant past, it used to be so boring to stay at home during the evenings and the weekends that people always looked for an excuse to get out of the house. But now, between streaming services, the internet, smartphones, and video games, it’s much easier to find an excuse to stay home.
Covid-19 has only made the situation even more challenging. Now, there is a legitimate reason to avoid others.
While a few select people seem to thrive with minimal human contact, most people need to spend time with others to stay emotionally healthy and happy.
Luckily, there are still things you can do to help maintain your emotional health, even when your time with others is reduced. The key is to be intentional.
Learn how to ease the discomfort of loneliness and social isolation with these tips:
- Be productive. Just because you might be spending a lot of time alone doesn’t mean you just have to sit there and be miserable. Everyone feels better when they’re being productive. Some productive activities include:
- Paint the living room.
- Volunteer to help others.
- Take a class online.
- Rearrange the pantry.
- Take the car in to have the tires rotated.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Read a book.
- And many more
- Safely connect with others. Use your imagination and find a way to connect with people while making your health a priority.
- Use Skype, Zoom, Facetime, and other options for talking “face-to-face.”
- Chat online via forums.
- Sit outside by a fire in the fresh air and have a conversation with a friend.
- Go to church or attend a sporting event.
- Join a class and learn something new with others.
- Play golf or tennis.
- Volunteer at a local charity. Recently, my wife and I volunteered at a food pantry to take the focus off of ourselves and place it on others.
- View beautiful things. What makes something attractive? It makes you feel a certain way when you look at it. With your smartphone or computer, you can view just about anything in the world. Spend some time looking at beautiful things each day, and you’ll feel great.
- Look at old photographs.
- Go to a museum.
- Find the most perfect tree in the park and really look at it.
- Take up a solo hobby. There are plenty of hobbies you can do by yourself. Paint, play chess online, hike, knit, write, ride a bike, or train your dog. A hobby is something you choose to do because it brings you pleasure.
- Get a pet. If you don’t have a pet, consider getting one. You can have a more meaningful relationship with the right pet than you can have with 99% of the people in the world. What type of animal interests you? My dog, Bonnie, is a great companion at times when no one else is around.
- Maintain a high level of self-care. Loneliness and social isolation often lead to poor self-care. It’s important to continue taking good care of yourself even if you’re spending a lot of time alone. For example, a shower isn’t something that you do just for others. It’s also something that you do for yourself.
- Be creative. Most people find they are more creative when they have time to themselves. Now is an ideal time to take advantage of your solitude. Heck, I even wrote a book during the pandemic. Let your creative juices flow!
- What ideas do you have?
- What do you want to create?
- What do you want to experiment with?
Having a lot of free time alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. There is a lot you can do to ease the discomfort of loneliness and social isolation. Technology makes it relatively easy to connect with others, even if physical proximity is impossible. Feeling productive can also ease the pain of being alone.
Instead of focusing on this great challenge, try to take advantage of its unique possibilities. You can learn more about yourself and try out a few hobbies. You’re free to explore your interests without interference from others.
Just think – by developing other interests, when the time comes when you can reconnect socially, you’ll have a variety of new things to talk about.
If you are a Christian, I encourage you to trust God’s promise, “Fear not, I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 40:10 ESV) God said that he will never leave you or forsake you. When I was at rock bottom in some of my darkest moments, I trusted God, sensed his presence, and knew that he was with me. I hope you will trust God’s promise.
Lastly, if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or experiencing suicidal thoughts, talk to someone NOW! You’ve got to tell somebody. You’re not alone. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to get help (available 24 hours): 1-800-273-8255. Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
All my best,
Preston> Read More
After completing my short-term stint with Hershey’s Sales Development department, I anxiously awaited my next assignment. I’d invested two years learning everything about the confection business and knew that my new role could be anywhere in the U.S.
The phone rang. “Hi, Preston. This is Dave. We’d like you to become the Giant – Carlisle key account manager and stay in the Hershey area.”
My heart began to sink because I’d heard how difficult it was to call on Giant.
Dave continued, “Your role won’t be easy at first. As you know, Giant is in our backyard. A majority of our employees shop in Giant’s stores. You’ll be under a microscope.”
Microscope? – I imagined thousands of Hershey employees complaining about something.
“And, our company has a lot of baggage with Giant. Things haven’t gone well with them over the past few years. We’ll want you to “bend the trend” – restore relationships, turn the business around and deliver results. Are you up to the challenge?”
With a lump in my throat, I quickly processed the opportunity and said, “yes.”
Dave said, “Great, and welcome aboard. I’ve already set up a meeting with Giant’s confectionary buyer tomorrow. I’ll brief you on the way to the meeting. No better way to do than to begin.”
Boy, this will be a quick transition. It’ll be sink or swim.
Dave briefed me on Giant and Matt, the candy category buyer, in the car ride to our appointment. He told me that Matt was one of the most stringent buyers in the Northeast. In his opinion, Matt was arrogant, very demanding, and hard to get along with. He was ambitious and only approved innovation or promotions that made him look successful. No one at Hershey had been able to materially breakthrough with him. The most recent Key Account Manager was run over by Matt and was highly ineffective.
The two company’s relationship was purely transactional with little hope of developing a strategic one. To complicate matters, our key competitor took advantage of Hershey’s challenges with Matt, and he showed a preference for their brands. It didn’t look or feel good having our key competitor beating us in our home market.
Dave and I met Matt for lunch. Right off, Matt was defensive and began telling us all of the things that were wrong with Hershey’s customer service. He said we had great brands, but we didn’t deliver on promises; he’d throw us out if he didn’t absolutely need us.
The conversation turned to the “baggage” Dave mentioned. Giant made big plans to promote Hershey brands during last year’s Halloween season. However, Hershey couldn’t deliver the product due to an untimely SAP data platform conversion; multiple candy truckloads were “lost” in the system and never made it to Giant’s warehouses. And as a result, Giant lost millions of dollars in sales. Matt felt burned – he didn’t receive an incentive, and he’d lost favor in management’s eyes.
After lunch, Matt looked at me and said, “I’m not sure you want this role. I’m not going to be of any help to you or Hershey.”
Leaving the meeting, I wasn’t fearful; something arose in me, and I embraced the challenge. I figured if I could somehow breakthrough with Matt, we could turn the two company’s relationship and business around.
I began with a series of short sales calls to connect with Matt. I asked him questions about Giant’s strategy, operating model, and what mattered to him. I listened to him with an open mind and a solution bent.
After learning what was essential to Giant and Matt, I began proposing promotion or new item opportunities aligned with Giant’s strategy. . .. He said “no” to me so many times I lost count, but I kept plugging away.
Matt continued to keep me in the penalty box because of the previous year’s Halloween delivery debacle. To prove his point during my first few months working with him, Matt only ordered 10% of his regular Halloween candy order. The small order put our business in a huge hole, and I needed to figure a way out of it.
I decided to take a different approach and win Matt’s heart first; then, I’d ask for his hand. I took a risk and invited Matt and his girlfriend to a Washington Redskins football game. Why? Matt told me that he was a huge Redskins fan but hadn’t ever been to a football game in D.C.
My wife and I rented a chauffeured limousine, picked up Matt and his girlfriend, and made our way to the stadium. I secured four company tickets in the second row. Matt wore his Redskins jersey; he was like a kid in a candy store (pun intended). He was genuinely excited and seemed to loosen up. I was very intentional not to bring up business during our conversations and wanted to connect with him personally.
Shortly after we arrived at our seats, Matt brought up business. He told me that I’d been in the penalty box too long; “nothing personal,” he said. He’d seen how hard I’d tried and really appreciated some of the business opportunities I’d shared with him. I asked him what it would take to turn our business around and restore the relationship between Giant and Hershey. He told me, “do what you say you’ll do.”
I responded, “Ok, I’ll do everything in my power to deliver. With that in mind, what can I deliver?” We began brainstorming ideas for a game-changing promotion where both companies would benefit. He shared best practices other manufacturers used to help grow Giant’s business. I listened to all of his ideas, and we aligned on a plan. I asked him if Hershey delivered on our collaborative concept, would Giant be aligned? Matt answered, “yes.”
I went to work with my cross-functional team to develop a “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” movie tie-in and partnership with Coca-Cola. We developed a shopper marketing program before shopper marketing was cool. The program included joint POS, in-store merchandising, an exclusive movie premiere, and supporting radio promotion.
I presented the plan to Matt, and he loved it. I showed him how the plan’s execution would grow his business and align with Giant’s strategies. The proposal met all of the promotion elements we discussed. Only hitch. . .. The moment of truth. . .. The close. . ..
I took a risk and asked for an unprecedented order. I asked Matt to quadruple his Holiday candy order versus last year. I knew that If Matt did, the order would overcome the Halloween deficit and put Hershey over our annual plan. Matt didn’t hesitate and said, “Ok. Write a suggested store level order and have it to me by next week.”
“One other thing,” he glared and demanded, “you’d better deliver!”
I confidently grinned and replied, “We’ll do what we said we’re going to do.”
And, we did. The promotion was a smashing success. Giant and Hershey both exceeded their annual business plan. It was gratifying to play a role in bending the performance trend and restoring relationships. To boot, my team won Hershey’s prestigious “President’s Cup” – the highest sales performance in the company versus the prior year. And Matt got promoted.
What about me? Well, that’s a story for another time. Let’s just say that bending the trend sometimes comes with a price.
If you are faced with the opportunity to drive positive change, I recommend you:
- Connect with Others. John Maxwell’s Law of Connection states, “Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand.”  Begin implementing a change by getting to know the key stakeholders. Find out their interests, ambitions, hopes, dreams, challenges, and fears. Listen intently and be authentic. Make changes based on the feedback you hear. You’ll find trust and credibility begin to develop as you make the genuine effort to connect with others.
- Create Momentum. Once you know what makes someone tick and understand what they want, help them get it. Secure quick wins that will help you create and build momentum. Work hard and follow-through; deliver on your small commitments, and they’ll have the potential to turn into big ones. Create momentum and consistently pursue your goal. You’ll eventually experience a breakthrough and go beyond what you thought possible.
- Be Persistent. Change doesn’t happen overnight. Don’t give up. Always be willing to try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working.
If you’ll connect with others, create momentum and be persistent, you’ll become a trend bender too.
Want to discover more about becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Please visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Maxwell, J. C. (2007). The 21 irrefutable laws of leadership: follow them, and people will follow you. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.> Read More
“Rob is one of the most difficult people to get to know and very hard to work with. Over the past 20 years, few company representatives successfully developed a relationship with him and influenced him. He can be very disagreeable and non-inclusive.”
My peers told me this as I took my new role working with our partner company’s new Senior Vice President, Rob. I had the demanding task of building trust with him and becoming a valued team member.
Early in my new role, I was invited to a meeting at Universal Studios in Orlando. I looked at the invite list and saw that Rob was attending the conference. What a perfect opportunity to get to know him.
As I arrived in Orlando, I received an email that the team was gathering in the hotel lobby at 3 pm and were going to the amusement park together. I arrived in the lobby along with 30 other meeting attendees. Everyone was there except Rob. I asked where he was, and they said he was running late.
We decided to wait a few minutes, but most of the group became restless, and folks slowly left a few at a time. I asked some of the team members before they went if they wanted to wait on Rob, and they said, “no, we want to have fun at the park. We’ll catch up with him later”. I considered going with them but decided to stick it out and wait for him.
About 15 minutes later, Rob came running into the lobby. The small group that remained greeted him after he checked in. He told us that he wanted to go to the park and asked where everyone else was. We told him that the group went ahead to the park and that we could catch up to them. He nodded his head in disappointment.
Then, he pulled out a map of the amusement park. Rob enthusiastically showed us how he’d mapped out all of the rides he wanted to take, including Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and the Dueling Dragons roller coaster. He confessed his love for amusement parks and said he’d been looking forward to the team building afternoon in the park for quite a while. I exclaimed, “what are we waiting for? Let’s go!”
Because the group was small, I had the chance to hang out with Rob in the park all afternoon. Waiting in lines and enjoying the rides together, I got to know him. We talked about families, hobbies, travel, current events, and even a little business on the side. Rob warmed to me and appreciated the small group going to the park with him.
Over time, I earned Rob’s trust. He began including me in meetings, and anytime I emailed Rob with a question or sought his help, he’d email me right back. He always picked up the phone whenever I called. Why? I attribute it to intentionally connecting with him at the park. I made an effort and took advantage of the opportunity. Who knew Rob was such an amusement park enthusiast?
My challenge to you is never to miss an opportunity to connect with others. It may seem uphill, but it’ll be worth it. If you show genuine interest in them, you’ll gain their trust and build lasting relationships.
Do you want to discover more about the value of connecting with others and becoming a leader others will gladly follow? Visit my website, prestonpoore.com, today!
Preston> Read More
I’m a disciple of Christ and an executive at a Fortune 500 Company. In my blog, The Discipled Leader, I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work.
As a certified coach, speaker, and trainer with the John Maxwell Team, I help others grow their relationship with Christ, develop their leadership skills, and understand how they can make a positive difference in today’s chaotic world.
Let me help you reach your potential.
I draw on my diverse business experience to help Christians connect their secular and spiritual lives at work. I invite you to subscribe to my blog and learn how to develop Christlike character, influence your culture and change your world.