What are the ingredients of conversation? As one who was recently invited to a Meetup event for introverts (something I find as a seriously funny notion), I’ve been giving this more thought. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not really shy. I’m just, well, a bit reserved. That is, walking into a crowded room of strangers at a cocktail party isn’t necessarily my favorite thing! I’ve always been fascinated by people who can do this with skill and ease. Its made wonder: can we be taught to have the gift of gab?
And then I met Timothy. Timothy Johnson III: my new twitter buddy and a self-professed “conversational engagist/rapport builder.” We met up recently to discuss storytelling, marketing and the conversation inevitably strayed to…conversation. Timothy loves to talk about talking and he’s brought it to a new level: we wondered and debated, in this rushed, pressured-to-perform, digital and sometimes impersonal world, has the art of the conversation been lost? What is a good conversationalist? For me, I thought this was an interesting opportunity to understand and gain some new ideas for improvement.
Why does this matter? Conversation is a precursor to relationship building. It goes without saying that networking and connecting with others is a core business competency. And, as brand storytellers we can’t achieve the goal – shared narrative with our customers – if we don’t have a meaningful one. So, it’s worth examining what’s really going on during the process of meaningful conversation. Here’s the takeaway: people engaged in dialogue are constantly sizing each other up, making little judgment calls to answer the question, “do I trust and believe this person?” Trust is the glue that binds a relationship, part of the reason we also choose to do business with others. As a sales rep friend often loves to tell me, “I ain’t buyin it if I ain’t buyin’ it.” Eloquent? No. But true, yes. And, by the way, this is also a key for success in social media.
So what did Timothy teach me? As he started to outline the elements of a conversation, in a neat little Venn diagram, he talked about “finding connections with people.” Aha, I thought: shared narrative. Relating. OK, I get that. He spoke more about how he goes about this. But beyond the technicalities of it all, the broad smile on Timothy’s face revealed the real silver bullet: you have to love it. OK, not dying love or anything, but you have to possess an earnest desire to really connect with people, really find out about them to be successful. Find the joy in getting to know people. Great conversationalists, I thought, are really just starters. And then they transition to good listeners.
I’m pretty sure I can do that. What about you? Maybe there’s hope for that introvert Meetup after all.