The most important tool in your toolkit for being a Conscious Conversationalist is being a good listener. Skilled listeners are able to listen deeply. What is deep listening? It’s simple: deep listeners make a conscious choice to open their ears and close their mouths.
In order to listen deeply, we need to genuinely care about the conversation and our partners in the conversation. Sometimes that’s hard, especially when you have the sense that you’d rather be talking to someone else. To get beyond that, throw out your biases and use a clean mental slate as you listen to the person in front of you. Sometimes that seemingly uninteresting person has great wisdom to share, or a jewel of an opinion about something you care about!
Asking more questions and making fewer declarations is another important part of being a Conscious Conversationalist. Let empathy be your guide as you walk in other people’s shoes to find fresh ways to connect and relate. Use your intuition to get a feel for what the person is interested in. If you are in a mixed group of employees and their non-employee partners at the holiday party, do you make the whole conversation about work? When sitting in a group and all the discussion revolves around raising children and you suddenly realize your neighbor doesn’t have any kids, consider changing the subject. Maybe ask them about their pets or their vacation plans.
A simple “How are you doing?” is a great ice breaker, and open-ended questions are always better than simple yes and no questions. You can even devise some questions to always have in your hip pocket for times when it gets quiet and you need a conversation starter. “What have you been spending time on that you are passionate about?” works for almost anyone and is very inclusive. Almost everyone has something they are passionate about!
The most important thing to remember is – it isn’t about you – if you make it all about you and what you’re doing, the other person feels uncared for and left out. Plus, it gets boring!
Take an opportunity to practice empathy and generosity. I once talked to a shipbuilder at Newport News who told me about an older mechanic that asked him how he was doing. “No one’s ever asked me at work about my well-being.” That shipbuilder went on to become a leader and always remembers to ask how people are doing. By expressing empathy and compassion, deeper relationships can be born and the environment can feel a little warmer.
Tips for Conscious Conversation
- Listen deeply to the person
- Care about the conversation
- Ask good questions
- Don’t make it about yourself
- Practice empathy and generosity
Dr. Robert Rosen is founded and CEO of Healthy Companies and author ofConscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life. At Healthy Companies, we believe that growth and success lie at the intersection of the personal and the business dimensions of organizational life. Our missionis to help CEO’s and executive teams build healthy, high performing companies through our consulting services, executive coaching and learning solutions.
“Most of us don’t listen well. We learn to listen like we speak. We are too preoccupied with where we are going. We spend too much time thinking about how to respond to or one-up the person talking to us. By being a good listener, we make a conscious choice to open our ears and stop talking so much.” Dr. Bob Rosen, from Conscious: The Power of Awareness in Business and Life.