June 16, 2008

Verbal Fluency

Posted in Life, On the Job tagged , at 8:33 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

Chapter 17, The Art of Small Talk, is great because it’s one of those chapters that allows you to walk away feeling confident that you have the tools to improve one small skill within the massive toolbox for networking. The reason it should be easy to master? It is simply about being honest and listening. Ferrazzi states, and I agree, that having the skill of easy conversation is not something you are born with, it is something you learn. And there should be motivation to learn, because the most common characteristic of successful people is verbal fluency. So let’s aim to master it.

It is easy to spot those who are uncomfortable, or who have yet to master the skills of small talk – they are the ones who can’t stop commenting on the rain we are supposed to get this afternoon or how hot it is outside. Sure those conversation starters are fine for a quick brush with a colleague when you really don’t want to have a conversation that lasts longer than 15 seconds, but when you want to connect with someone you have to be more memorable than the weather.

One of my favorite passages from this chapter reads, “I’ve always told people I believe that every conversation you have is an invitation to risk revealing the real you. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond in kind. So what. They probably weren’t worth knowing in the first place. But if the risk pays off, well, now you’ve just turned a potentially dull exchange into something interesting or even perhaps personally insightful — and more times than not, a real relationship is formed” (p. 147).

I completely relate to that. I would have said that up until maybe even a few months ago, I would have tailored my conversation topics to match my co-workers or whoever I was with, because the real me didn’t “appear” to fit in with them. But if I would have applied Ferrazzi’s words, I could have risked revealing the real me, and even if a great relationship didn’t come of it, maybe we would have had some interesting conversation between two “different” people. I also agree with being up front about your vulnerabilities. I have formed some of the best working relationships in my current job by being up front and saying that I’m not sure of what I’m doing. The majority of the time, the other person didn’t know either and then we could commiserate together and it resulted in us having a stronger bond.

The other half of learning the art of small talk, is learning the art of listening. People feel important when you make them the center of your attention and play off of what they are saying. Ask questions based on their last statement or tag team their thought to lead into yours. Always pay attention to names and say it again at the end of the conversation – “let’s get coffee sometime Lindsay. I’d love to hear more about that show you’re working on.”

So be observant at work or school or when you’re out in public. Listen to other people’s conversational styles and pick out what you like and use it as your own. Be all honesty and all ears and you will be on your way to mastering verbal fluency!