RISMEDIA, March 31, 2011—LOL and BRB might be key communication elements in a texting, emailing, social-media-obsessed world, but they don’t make for high quality communication or conversation. Sometimes you might not even know what your communicating counterpart is even saying to you. With communication becoming more and more diluted by technology, Maribeth Kuzmeski, , author of The Connectors: How the World’s Most Successful Businesspeople Build Relationships and Win Clients for Life, stresses the importance of once again valuing great conversation—an essential element in building strong, mutually beneficial, and even profitable relationships.
“Conversations are the building blocks of relationships,” says Kuzmeski. “Without it, we form relationships that are devoid of substance,” she adds. “Unfortunately, we live in a world where the modern MO seems to be less talking and more texting. People either think they don’t have the time or don’t think it’s necessary to take the time to have real conversations with each other. But for anyone who wants to create truly beneficial relationships, you have to stop texting, walk away from the computer, and connect with someone one-on-one through a great conversation.”
An expert on the art of connecting, Kuzmeski teaches her clients how to connect with their customers in order to win business and build loyalty, and believes that mastering the art of conversation goes a long way when you’re trying to connect with another person, whether in business or your social life.
“The goal of any conversation should be to build a mutually beneficial relationship with that other person,” says Kuzmeski. “By having a conversation with someone, you’re committing to connecting with him or her for the next 10, 15, 30 minutes or more. Follow that conversation to its conclusion, and you never know what you will find out. The point is you have to be willing to have it in the first place, and that is something that too few of us value these days.”
Kuzmeski’s top reasons why now is the time to re-master the art of conversation:
It puts quality ahead of speed. Today, you can find out almost anything you’d ever want to know in seconds. You can rattle off a text faster than you can dial someone’s number. You can send an email out to multiple contacts in a couple of minutes. But with this speed of communication, notes Kuzmeski, you often sacrifice quality; and, ultimately, this sacrifice leaves you with paper-thin relationships.
“Texting, IMing, and emailing provide great ways to communicate, but there is a one-sidedness to the kind of communication they allow,” says Kuzmeski. “There is a delay in the actual exchange of ideas that doesn’t exist when you are speaking with someone. With these methods, the chances are also higher that you will be misunderstood or you will misunderstand the other person because there’s no way to capture tone and feeling in a way that ensures it won’t be confused. To truly express yourself and allow others to express themselves, conversation provides the highest quality of communication.”
It’s the glue of great relationships. You can email or text someone regularly, but according to Kuzmeski, it is only during a real conversation that a bond with him or her actually begins to strengthen.
“Think about this in terms of your professional life,” suggests Kuzmeski. “Who do you trust more? The vendor who always calls you or the one who only communicates via email? Sure, you might enjoy doing business with both of them, but when it comes right down to it, your relationship with the vendor you regularly speak to is probably stronger. Conversation is essential in all relationships. If you can’t hold a conversation with another person, your relationship will quickly break down.”
It’s the only way to see what someone is saying. Kuzmeski believes that face-to-face conversation is the only way to take in the total message someone is sending. It allows you to take his or her inflection, emotion, and physical gestures into account along with what is actually being said. It also allows you to show that person that you are listening and truly value what he or she has to say.
“Your face, eyes, and body language allow you to give a range of emotions that indicate whether you are following what the speaker is saying,” says Kuzmeski. “Your face actively captures information. A simple nod of the head or a simple ‘uh-huh’ helps you acknowledge that you are really listening to what he or she has to say. Doing so helps you show you’re interested in the person and also helps you encourage him or her to keep speaking, so that the conversation keeps flowing.”
It’s an opportunity-making skill. Being a great conversationalist can lead to great opportunities, both in your professional and social lives, says Kuzmeski. For example, to get your dream job, you’ll have to back up your meticulously written resume with a great interview. The most comfortable interviews are those that feel like normal conversations—a give and take between two (or more) people who genuinely want to learn about one another. Once you get the job, your conversations with your new colleagues will help you gain their trust and build a rapport that helps you (and them) succeed.
“In your social life, if you want to ask someone on a date or even just make a new friend, you’re going to have to be able to talk to that person,” notes Kuzmeski. “These are all situations where technology is only going to get you so far. Life’s opportunities are sealed with conversation, not texting or emailing.”
It’s a great way to invest in others. Kuzmeski believes that the act of listening—the other half of a great conversation—shows people you care. “When you speak with someone and listen to what he or she has to say, you are showing that person you value him or her,” explains Kuzmeski. “And the wonderful thing is that in the flow of a great conversation, he or she is giving that courtesy right back to you. “
It is not a requirement to be the most outgoing person in the room. If you’ve been using your shy personality as an excuse for relying on technology for all of your communication, now’s the time to stop, stresses Kuzmeski. “Being outgoing is not a requirement for participating in or initiating a great conversation. The only requirements are that you are authentic and show that you value what the other person has to say,” she explains. “You don’t have to say anything profound. You don’t have to impress people with your every word. You simply have to participate, actively listen, and be open and honest in what you say.”
It’s the best way to mend a broken relationship. There are some situations in business, and in life, that should only be handled via a conversation. The bottom line is that sometimes an email or a text just won’t cut it. According to Kuzmeski, mending a broken relationship is one of those situations.
“When you’re in trouble with a client or you’ve hurt a friend’s feelings, you have to get up and go see the person or, at the very least, pick up the phone and call, even when the conversation might be uncomfortable for you,” says Kuzmeski. “Your client will appreciate that you’ve shown up during tough times, and you’ll be showing your friend that you value him or her enough to make the time. This is how you begin to rebuild trust, something that will be very difficult to achieve if all you’re doing is pushing the ‘Send’ button.”
Kuzmeski believes that conversation lies behind strong relationships, an advancement of opportunities and a more satisfying way of living overall. “When you focus your efforts on having great conversations every day, you’ll see that great things start to fall into place.”
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