Conversation skills are top of mind these days. As a business etiquette trainer, I am often asked how to improve soft skills amongst teams in the workplace. Let’s face it, employers want people that can talk and build relationships, both internally and externally.
Because we rely heavily on online communication, millennials (born during 1980’s-1990’s) have missed out on valuable face to face interactions. They may not understand how to have a conversation that is meaningful and polished – a conversation that is involved and is focused on the other person.
Recently, I had a discussion with a CEO of a hospital, and as we were planning her team’s training, her first request was my module on conversation skills. She commented that her team had many high potential leaders but her main concern was that they were not able to have meaningful conversations that expressed interest or concern of others. They were capable of talking only about themselves.
How to Improve Conversation Skills at Work
- To be interesting, you must show you are interested in others. This is critical to building relationships. Ask questions. Show you are interested in the person with whom you are speaking. Do your homework ahead of time. If you are invited to lunch with a new client, check out their LinkedIn profile. What do you have in common with them? Look at their previous work experience. If you are a guest in their office, take note of what is on their desk or photos on the wall. Maybe they have an interest in a particular sport or hobby. Ask them about it. This is always a great way to start a conversation.
- Become a better listener. We have ears that hear well but most of us do not really listen to or hear the other person’s message. First, focus. Yes, put down your devices and listen with all of your senses. Make eye contact. Visualize what they are saying. For tips and tricks on how to be a better listener, click here.
- Understand the importance and etiquette of good communication skills. Understand your audience before you become too casual in the way you express yourself to others. You may be very casual in your tone or speech at your office but when you are meeting a client for the first time or in the beginning stages of building a relationship, avoid being too candid or chummy in your approach. Remember, having a conversation is not the same as posting on social media.
Companies that place an importance on the human element and on their employees’ interpersonal skills will certainly become more valuable.
If your organization is in need of business etiquette training, I invite you to have a conversation. Whether or not we decide to do business together, I am confident our call will be full of insights and actionable steps that can help your team become more polished and successful. Here is a link to my calendar: