Our Blog Posts will help you reach your full potential in becoming a confident conversationalist. New topics each week.
I know there’s a lot of angst and anxiety around returning to work and I know part of that stress comes from the thought of social interactions. Talking to people in real life is something we haven’t done much, if at all, in the last year. In fact we pivoted to the exact opposite. Virtual interactions with a mute button and an option to keep your camera turned off.
It is possible that you’ve been silently hiding for more than a year and now showing up, being seen, being heard and talking to people is a huge overwhelming shift.
And if you’ve had a few awkward encounters already… well, that doesn’t help your confidence or make it any easier to believe that you can do it AND that it’s important you talk to your colleagues again in person. You might prefer to work virtually and stay hidden away but when you work with a team, they might need you to show up an engage in person for the good of the team and its collective goals.
You don’t have to share the same sports interests to have a sports conversation.
Which means you don’t have to predict the fandom of the person you’re talking to before you start the conversation.
If you’re a baseball fan go ahead and ask your colleague if they saw the game last night. Wait for the response. Your colleague will tell you if they are a baseball fan and watched the game, or if they spent time watching golf instead.
Use their response to formulate follow-up questions and guide the conversation. Don’t overthink which one of these sports conversation starters will work this week. Pick one and see where the conversation takes you.
"What's the No. 1 thing I can do to have a better conversation?" The podcast host asked me. "What do you think I'm missing out on?"
It was a great question.
I don't think he was expecting the answer I gave or how practical it is: Give a better answer to the question, "How are you?"
He looked at me, a little confused. Then we started playing out the conversation and here's what happens:
"How are you?"
"I'm good! How are you?"
And then? Silence. An awkward pause. A clunky transition. A game of 20-questions. Any and all of these possibilities contribute to a desire to end the interaction as quickly as possible.
Here's what most people don't realize: Your response to "How are you?" is a critical moment in a conversation.
It's the moment you get to introduce topics you want to talk about. Your response directs the conversation. Answering with "Fine." "Good" or even "Living the dream." isn't a response most people can follow up on.
Your answer to "How...
Everyone could use a good conversation starter these days because, “Have you gotten your shot?” and “Which shot did you get?” is a terrible way to start a conversation. And asking, “What’s new?” a year into a pandemic where most people haven’t done anything is a non-starter.
You know what works as a conversation starter every single time? Sports.
There are new things to talk about every day and even non-sports fans will give you an answer that can spark a productive and enjoyable exchange. With that in mind, start talking and use these sports topics to get the conversation going.
Even if you don’t plan to go back into an office surely you’re planning to socialize in person because there are only so many virtual happy hours any of us can take.
When those in-person interactions happen there won’t be an option to turn a camera on or off. You won’t have the benefit of a chat function where you can type a quick “Hello!” to show you’re contributing to the conversation. You’re going to need to show up and start a conversation all on your own.
Which is why it’s a good idea to brush up on the conversation skills you need for those in-person interactions because we’ve been communicating in an entirely different way for more than a year. The thought of striking up a conversation out of the blue and possibly with someone you don’t know can be overwhelming right now. Even extroverts...
Most of us aren’t looking for additional drama in our lives, but in our conversations… that can be a different story. We don’t mind talking about dramatic stories, finishes, outcomes and people. It makes conversations interesting.
The NCAA Tournament has provided plenty of drama in the last few days. Have you seen the highlights of those finishes? Wow!
They make for great conversation starters this week along with these sports topics.
A short conversation can still be a productive one.
There’s no “qualifying time” that guarantees a conversation has been a good one.
A quality exchange can be 15 seconds or it could be an hour or anything in between. These sports conversations are perfect for short conversations (15–30 seconds) or for starting longer conversations. You choose and you can make it productive.
As we think about connecting in real life again, resuming networking habits, or maybe refining that podcast you started in the last year. Remember this: Curiosity doesn’t replace preparation.
Curiosity alone doesn’t lead to a great conversation or even a productive one if you didn’t take the time to get curious before the conversation started.
Spend a few minutes to consider things like:
How do you know this person? Are you familiar with them or do you need to do a little research?
What’s happened in the time since last talking to them? Think about what could have happened in their industry, with their job or in the world in general so you can bring empathy, understanding and perspective to the conversation.
What are you hoping to get out of the conversation? Identify the objective before you start talking so you know where the conversation needs to go.
What needs to happen for it to be a successful conversation? Drill down and get a little more specific on...
Busted bracket? Yeah, me too – along with just about everyone else who assumed the top men’s seeds would advance to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
You know what a busted bracket says? I was wrong. Or, if you have a hard time fully admitting to that statement, it says you didn’t guess right or didn’t make the right choice.
In the context of picking winning basketball teams it matters very little. In a bigger business context there is value in be able to graciously admit when you are wrong.
Use sports conversations to practice the skill you’ll need in much bigger and more important conversations at work. These topics can can get the conversations started.
This is the time of year NFL free-agent deals make headlines. It's easy to look at those dollar amounts and think you'll never been in those kinds of conversations - except negotiating is a skill leaders use every day.
Creating buy-in is a form of persuasion and negotiation. Without it you won't foster the type of teamwork needed to be successful. Being a successful negotiator comes down to a few basic communication skills.
Sports agent Kelli Masters joined Learn from a Leader and shared her overall strategy for negotiating NFL contracts and it isn't about the numbers - it starts with knowing your stuff and being able to see different points of view.
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner negotiating his own contract in 2019. Most players prefer to let their agent handle the details and have the tough conversations. Those conversations could include the employer (the team) telling an an employee (the player) he isn't as valuable or important as he thinks he is. Who wants to hear...