Listening to others and then responding appropriately is one of my first rules for becoming an outstanding conversationalist. I always urge my career success coach clients to do three things when they are in conversation: 1) Ask lots of questions; 2) Really listen to what the other person is saying; 3) Respond appropriately; Laugh if the person says something funny. Commiserate if the person reveals something that is sad. Make sure the other person knows you are tuned in and paying attention.
Most people like to talk about themselves. That’s why listening is so important. You can gain a reputation as a great conversationalist – even if you don’t say much. Listening is that important. That’s why the 2/3 – 1/3 rule is such great career advice.
Of course, adding your thoughts to the conversation doesn’t hurt – as long as you keep them focused on what the other person is saying. If you absolutely need to change the subject, let him or her know. Say something like, “I understand and appreciate what you’re saying. If we’re done with that topic, I need to speak with you about something else. OK?” In that way, you’re demonstrating your respect for the other person.
In her great book, CEO Material, my friend Debra Benton has a lot to say about listening and conversation. Here is a small sample…
“The best way to influence others is with your ears. If you listen in a way that causes people to feel heard, you’ll hear things right the first time, maintain the self-esteem of others, build better relationships, see nuances.
Shut out other people and distractions, and stop thinking about what anyone else is thinking or your response. Take off your headphones, stop texting, turn off your cell phone, put away your Blackberry. Don’t doodle; fidget with your hands, arms or fingers; squirm; body rock; or get up and move around (like you have ADD). Instead, lean forward, tilt your head a little, give some eye contact, and maybe throw in a brow furrow, don’t glance around or act bored, disbelieving, or disagreeing. Just listen to the person who is talking, remember what he or she says, and say some of it back to that person later.
Don’t quit listening if you don’t like what you’re hearing. Pay attention to complete information. Try to make sense of the data, even if you don’t agree. Not every misguided opinion needs to be corrected by you. Pick your battles, as they say. You’ll create calm for both of you — and the other person will more likely listen to you also.”
That is not only great advice on listening. It’s great career advice as well.
The common sense career success coach point here is simple. Successful people are dynamic communicators. Conversation skills are one key to becoming a dynamic communicator. Follow the career advice in Tweet 109 in Success Tweets. “Use the 1/3 – 2/3 rule. Listen two-thirds of the time; speak one-third of the time. Focus your complete attention on the other person.” Listening is at the heart of being a good conversationalist. If you want to become known as a good conversationalist, do three things: 1) Ask lots of questions; 2) Really listen to what the other person is saying; 3) Respond appropriately. If you make sure the other person knows you are tuned in and paying attention, you’ll be able to conduct a productive conversation with just about anyone you meet, become known as a dynamic communicator, and be on your way to the life and career success you want and deserve.