Learning to have conversations is one of the very first things we do as a child. We say our first words, expand our vocabulary, and before we know it we are chatting away with anyone who will listen. Conversations are such a formative element of our lives, and our interactions with people for the rest of our lives tend to be built off the very first conversations we have.
However, in this fast-paced world that we live in, we tend to get used to the quick back-and-forth messages that we send while on the go. Attention gets turned inwards, time gets spent with a hundred different people, and we forget the importance of having truly meaningful conversations.
Here are three tips for facilitating meaningful conversations in the workplace and beyond.
The absolute most important element of having a substantial conversation is to listen. This does not mean simply hearing what the other person is saying. Rather, it means actively engaging, considering, and reflecting upon what that person has said and what it means. It is very easy to read when people are not really tuned in to what you’re saying, and we all know how disappointing it can be. So, when you’re having a conversation, tune in and be present so that you can fully engage.
The best way to show someone you are interested in what they have to say is to ask questions. This immediately shows that you were listening, you considered their point of view, and you want to know more. Asking questions is a great method of moving the conversation along. If you aren’t very interested in the topic at hand, why not ask them what else they have been working on recently, or their plans for the future? By asking questions you can manoeuver the conversation into a realm that suits both parties, without seeming disinterested or uncomfortable.
Allow Everyone To Be Heard
Interrupting is the fastest way to derail a conversation and can leave people feeling like they have not been heard. This can lead to a lack of confidence or disengagement. Oftentimes we interrupt simply because we are eager to share our point of view. When someone is cut off in the conversation, it tells them that we think our opinion is the most important one in the room. While this may not be what we mean, it can be perceived this way. It is important to be respectful to everyone in the room and make sure everyone is heard.
The reality is, the pace we move at in life and work is not slowing down, and while we think that we are saving time by answering quickly, jumping in while someone else is speaking or multi-tasking – none of this works. We achieve more from interactions with our colleagues and people outside of work, when we allow ourselves to be present, actively listen and ask meaningful questions.