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I recently attended a very interesting Barclays Breakfast seminar (after a long absence) where the topic under consideration was the art of conversation. Primarily this was in a business context but in truth translates to all forms of conversation.
As the business environment has evolved so too has the methods by which we communicate. Most importantly the speed at which things are now delivered has also dictated the level of expectation between communicating parties. Email has transformed the office and the proliferation of blackberrys and iphones has only heightened the level of expectation that people can and will respond immediately.
Work life would not be the same without it but almost certainly it has had an impact on the level of conversations we have.
It can be exceptionally easy to rely almost exclusively on email in most business transactions and it provides a great means to impart structure and focus to issues at hand and the direction in which you want them to go with the ultimate aim of saving time. In most cases that may well prove the case but emails are often capable of interpretation in differing ways to which you mean and can create a wider distraction whilst things are brought back on track.
Actually talking to someone can sometimes be the quickest and most effective means of getting information and even information you never expected to get. The ability to allow things to flow and take on new (and potentially beneficial) directions is so much more enhanced when speaking to someone.
Slight trite commentary I hear you say – I agree but that was not my ultimate topic. The speaker at the event highlighted the fact (again this is common sense) that far too often we wade into a discussion with no clear or stated destination as a result of which you can find yourself having spent a long time speaking but having extracted little information for your efforts. I have certainly fallen victim (or rather have been the offender) of this.
What was being promoted was a number of overarching principles to ensure that you get the most from your conversations.
Again, the approach suggested (but by no means was all that was encouraged) was to give thought to your conversations, to think through what you want to come away with. Like most things in life, without an ultimate goal, how can you measure any level of success.
Be strategic in your approach – this does not require a rigid script but rather more detailed thought about your approach and direction and the information you want to extract. Even something as simple as that can change the benefits you derive from the conversations you have.