People skills are important, especially if you work on your own. Because much of our time can be spent working in isolation away from cubicles and water coolers, keeping your conversation skills sharp should be a high priority. You don’t want to open the floodgates of talking about yourself too much when you interact with someone in person.
I’ve run into this a few times in the past few weeks – ironically with stay-at-home moms who, when you think about it, are kind of in the same situation as a work-from-home freelancer. At the end of the conversations, I kind of felt yucky. The bottom line in a conversation is that you NEVER want to make the other person feel yucky.
Why did I feel yucky? I took note of a few key do-and-don’ts to keep in the back of my mind for future interactions:
To me, this is maybe the most important piece of a conversation. In order to make it not about YOU, you need to ask the other person about THEM. And try to be more specific than just “How are you?” If you ask something like “How are things going with your new project?” it shows the other person that the things they share with you don’t just go in one ear and out the other.
Keep An Eye On The Clock
In Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, they talk about the 30-60-90 rule. It’s definitely okay to talk about yourself in a conversation (typically when asked), but don’t make your answers too long or go off on tangets. A 30-second response is about perfect. At 60 seconds you’re starting to lose the other person. And you can chalk them up as “bored” at 90 seconds.
Bottom line on this one is don’t dump your dirty laundry on the other person. Tell me about what’s going well in your life (again, when asked). What are you excited about? It’s not that you shouldn’t be real but if you really want a guaranteed way to make the other person to feel yucky, just dump some yucky stuff on them. Be optimistic about the negative things in your life. It’ll actually make the other person feel inspired.
Act Like You’re Interested
When you’re having a short conversation with someone, try to give them your full attention. Don’t act like you’re stuck talking with them or you have nothing better to do. Act like it’s one of the highlights of your day. It’s pretty much a guaranteed way to make them look forward to your next interaction. And in order to keep it from seeming fake, practice the art of smiling with your eyes. Seriously – go look into the mirror and practice this.
When you ask someone a question, respond to their response. Positively. When you wrap up the conversation, tell them how good it was to see them. Offer them encouragement about things going on in their life that they may have shared.
Post-Conversation: Store It All In The Archive
Make a mental note of the conversation you just had – or even write down some of what they other person shared. Remember what is going on in that person’s life and use it as conversation material the next time you see them. That’s what’ll really kill any hint of the yucky-factor: it shows the other person that they matter to you.