Let's Have Better Conversations
“It was impossible to get a conversation going –
everybody was talking too much.”
Welcome back to the P4P blog! For those of you who might not know me, I’m Jennifer Rosenthal and I joined the company as Partner in July. It's been exciting to join Ina and team in solving our clients’ talent challenges. I’m kicking off our blog after a summer hiatus with a focus on conversation.
Recently, one of my sons who is studying at Lehigh University shared a TED Talk in our family group chat: How to Have a Better Conversation. Writer and radio host Celeste Headlee shares her insights on creating meaningful conversations. I found it fascinating and wanted to share my reflections on it.
Celeste’s advice touches all aspects of my life, especially my career as a recruiter. I try to live by her motto: “Go out, talk to people, listen to people. And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed." Conversation is a skill that we can fine tune to ensure information flows freely and with meaning. Particularly in an era where our faces are frequently hidden in our smart phones and computers, the art of conversation seems to be a dying skill.
I encourage you to think about Celeste’s 10 basic rules to improve conversation. It will lead to better interviews, as well as other professional and personal interactions. (You can watch her talk here.)
I’d like to touch on several of her points:
1. Don’t multi-task. Be present in that moment; don’t let your mind wander. I have found that you can tell when someone you’re speaking with is doing other things. It is important to focus and show people that you're listening and that their thoughts and issues matter to you.
2. Don’t pontificate. Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. You can’t assume you know everything about the topic at hand. Make room in the conversation for what you don’t know. Celeste suggests asking open-ended questions, and I have learned from my own experience that doing so makes for a more authentic dialogue. As a recruiter, I can say that this approach results in a deeper understanding of a candidate's skills and strengths in interviews.
3. Go with the flow. To me, building on the above point, going with the flow means approaching the conversation with an open and attentive mind. Try not to interrupt the other person. Let them finish what they’re saying before you jump in. This way, they won’t lose their train of thought. I have found that often my questions are touched upon or answered in further conversation.
4. Stay out of the weeds. In interviews especially, keep your responses high-level. Speak briefly, then turn it back to the interviewer and ask about the company's issues and goals. This will help you articulate the ways in which your experience aligns with what they need. For example, “I have this expertise in my background. I’ve done [X] four times throughout my career and it's one of my strengths."
5. Listen – this may be the most important skill. Earlier in my career, a mentor said to me, “You have two ears and one mouth, and you should use them in that ratio.” I have found that’s true. Many of the most successful people I know do more listening than talking. As we mentioned in our previous post, The Power of Listening, listening builds relationships and trust and makes you more effective. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do at work, and in our lives?
I hope you have found these tips useful. You may already practice many of these suggestions. But if you don’t, why not try a few and see what happens? I would be curious to know what other things you might be doing to create meaningful conversations. As Celeste says, prepare to be amazed.