The art of conversation isn’t about impressing others, but rather connecting with them on a deeper level.
Conversation is an art form, one that can be difficult to master. To have a successful conversation, it has to be mutually engaging and rewarding. We must be able to read others and understand their body language, tone of voice, and the impact we are having on them, in the moment. We must also be genuine in our interest, showing an authentic desire to understand their perspective. Only then can we hope to have a truly meaningful dialogue that connects us. In this article, we highlight a few tips to help you communicate to connect.
We’re so focused on making a good impression, that we forget to actually listen
In today’s fast-paced, information-driven world, it’s easy to get caught up in the need to always be “on.” We’re so focused on making a good impression by demonstrating our intellect, that we forget to actually listen. As a result, we often miss out on important cues and insights that could help us better understand the people and situations around us.
The next time you’re in a meeting or conversation, try to resist the urge to jump in with your own opinion. Instead, really hear what others are saying. You may be surprised at how much you learn – and how much more effective you become as a result.
So why do we try to impress others?
In short, it’s conditioned behavior, courtesy of societal expectations and our upbringing. Think about it. Up to a certain point in our lives, certainly through high school, college, and even into our careers, we’ve been praised and rewarded for how good, smart, successful, etc. we are. It’s no wonder we’re focused on making sure everyone we meet somehow knows it. After all, it’s gotten us to where we are today. A very relevant book on this topic is Marshall Goldsmith‘s What Got You Here, won’t Get You There.
Reflect on the impact this has on others and the dynamics you help create. In that very moment, it is likely that your idea of effective dialogue is measured by the resounding sound of your own drum, and not so much to make a connection. Maybe you want to make a connection, but you just haven’t leaned into how you can best accomplish this. And yes, even if you are subtly braggadocios. Others still notice it.
Self-awareness and connecting
Maybe you want to connect, but you don’t realize it’s not working as effectively as you thought, or you are not sure why. You see, human connection is possible because of how we make the other person feel. Before we can do this, we must be able to read others and understand their body language, and tone of voice.
Self-awareness makes this possible. It enables us to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes and understand how our actions are impacting them, in the moment. The ability to see things from another’s perspective creates a mutual understanding and respect, which is essential for any lasting relationship. It also allows us to adapt our behavior to create the most positive interactions. By being aware of our own emotions and the effects we have on others, we can create more meaningful connections with the people around us.
Get out of your head and into the moment
Sure, in any conversation, it’s natural to think about what you’re going to say next. However, this can often lead to missed opportunities to really connect with the other person, because you’re not fully tuned in to what is transpiring in front of you.
If you are gaining self-awareness around how you are showing up, you can begin to intentionally make a critical shift. Instead of thinking about your response, try to actively listen to what the other person is saying. This doesn’t mean simply waiting for your turn to speak, but actively listening to the words and trying to understand the underlying message. There is a great Forbes article on “are you really listening, or just waiting to talk?”.
Five ways to get out of your head
If you want to show someone that you’re interested in what they have to say, there are a few verbal and nonverbal cues that you can use to make anyone feel valued and appreciated.
- Make sure to maintain eye contact throughout the dialogue. This shows that you’re focused and engaged.
- Use their name, when possible. This is an easy way to make someone feel heard.
- Nod your head occasionally to signal that you’re following along.
- Ask questions whenever possible. This shows that you’re interested in learning more about the topic at hand.
- When appropriate, synthesize what you heard. Image how the other person feels when you not only heard them but are able to succinctly repeat what you heard. It really demonstrates you were tuned in.
Next-level presence. Notice what wasn’t said, including body language
By really paying attention to the other person, you may be able to pick up on nonverbal cues or body language that can give you the information you didn’t notice on the surface. Additionally, you’ll likely find that the other person is more receptive to what you have to say if they feel that you’ve truly listened to them.
For example, we’ve all been in scenarios where we notice something is off. Maybe the meeting dynamics suddenly shifted, or the other person’s facial expression changed. We notice it, but do absolutely nothing with this amazing information. Next time you notice some of these subtle signs, lean into it. Consider respectfully sharing your observations and humbly inquiring. You’ll be amazed at the impact you have on others when you connect on this level. For example, “John, when I switched topics just now, I noticed a shift in your demeanor. Can you please help me understand what I may be missing?”
Be yourself – people can see through pretense
It can be tempting, in both our personal and professional lives, to try to be someone we’re not. We might think we’ll be more successful if we imitate those who are already successful, or that we’ll be more likable if we act like everyone else. However, it’s important to remember that people can see through pretense. It’s far better to be ourselves than to try to put on a false front. When we’re genuine, people are more likely to respond positively to us. We’re also likely to feel more comfortable and confident in our own skin. So next time you’re tempted to put on a mask, remember that it’s always better to just be yourself.
The next time you’re in a conversation, worry less about saying the right thing. Instead, make the objective of your dialogue to connect, not to impress, using the tips in this article. By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master of the art of communicating to connect. This also opens the doors for improved leadership effectiveness, and influence that creates bigger ripple effects, such that the whole becomes bigger than the sum of its individual parts.
It’s an important skill in our personal and professional lives. If you find yourself struggling to really connect with others, consider working with a certified communication skills coach who can help you fine-tune your ability to engage others effectively. Discover what is possible and give us a call Bridgeline Executive Coaching.
Written by: Nick Tubach, MBA,PPC