After twelve years of hosting for brands such as MTV Canada, CTV News, the Toronto International Film Festival and Breakfast Television Vancouver, the best lesson I have learned in communication can be described in three simple words: Every Conversation Counts.
Countless opportunities have been provided to talk with people from all walks of life. Business leaders, philanthropists, athletes, celebrities, even muppets. Here’s a little tip, never suggest to Miss Piggy that Kermit may have been flirting at the craft service table. Two words: karate chop!
How can a conversation help you achieve success in life? To be successful, we need to cultivate meaningful relationships, and to establish those relationships we need meaningful conversation. Your words have the ability to teach, inspire or destroy a person at any given moment. The right words at the right time can be life changing.
These five secrets have helped me make every conversation count and build powerful relationships in the process:
1) TO BE INTERESTING, BE INTERESTED.
How do you start conversations? For every topic of conversation, I always take one approach. That is, nobody cares. The challenge is to cultivate curiosity by taking a genuine interest in the person or idea in front of you. At times we may feel social anxiety from the self-inflicted pressure to connect, be accepted and be heard. If you want to be interesting, start with being interested.
The CONVO method is a great way to transform small talk into meaningful dialogue:
Commonality: Like attracts like. Find and emphasize similarity, as this helps build trust.
Occupation: In addition to finding out what they do, ask why they do it.
Name: Their name is the most important word in your conversation. Remember it.
Vulnerability: Have the courage to be yourself. Contribute more than you criticize.
Opinion: Start the conversation by asking for their opinion on something.
Seek to understand not only what people do with their time, but also, why they do it. By understanding their why, you will understand what motivates them to act and generate strong engagement points for building personal and professional relationships.
2) REMEMBER THAT ONE THING
Research shows that more than 40 percent of what people talk about is based on their own personal experiences and relationships. To leave a lasting impression, remember one story or idea the person shares with you. Use that one thing in your next interaction and you will see a positive response.
This works both ways. What is one extraordinary statement you can share to make things personal so that someone will remember you? Is it a joke, a personal story, maybe a bit of good news? Always come armed with a unique tidbit or two that can help drive the conversation. This is a relevant tip for all communicators as the more specific you can be with your questions and answers, the more you will learn about each other and establish common ground.
If someone asks, “How was your vacation?”, you can end the conversation by saying “We had a great time,” Or you can keep the conversation going by responding, “I proposed, went to an elephant sanctuary and am now going to adopt a dog from Thailand.” Big difference.
3) THE NAME GAME
How many times have you said to a friend, “Introduce yourself to so-and-so because I don’t remember their name!” People love to hear their name. Author Benjamin Levy, “Every Name, Every Time,” illustrates the FACE method to help you remember names once and for all.
Focus: First and foremost, pay attention when you hear their name. Focus on their face and look for unique features that can act as a trigger.
Ask: Ask about their name, its origins, different versions of it.
Comment: Comment on the atmosphere, the food, their attire etc. Try and build a cross reference point that you can match to a personal thought.
Employ: Try to use their name at least three times in the conversation.
4) STORYTELLING IS YOUR SECRET WEAPON
Think about the last good story someone told you. Chances are your brain absorbed it as if you were experiencing it yourself. That’s what makes movies magical and certain songs the soundtrack for those special moments.
Author Peter Guber in his book “Tell to Win” argues that humans aren’t moved to action by an information overload. We have all seen this in presentations – stats, surveys and those dreaded powerpoint slides. Instead, we are moved to action by one key factor, emotion. Emotion is what motivates, connects and polarizes people. The best way to connect to this feeling, he argues is to tell someone a story.
Which begs the question “What makes for a good story?”
i) Lead with your most interesting material. Nobody is as interested in your story as you are. What emotive tale will you tell? The more relatable the characters and the conflict are, the more likely your audience will take the journey with you.
ii) Get to the point. Precisely pick your words and efficiently establish a beginning, middle and an end. If you can tell your story in three minutes, great. If you can nail it in two, you will leave them wanting more.
iii) Personal Conflict is Key. Hearing about how you overcame your struggles living on an air mattress when you were twenty thousand dollars in debt is much more intriguing than bragging about your fat bank account. Be vulnerable and explain the personal challenges you faced, the fear you felt and the courage you summoned to overcome your obstacles.
For a story to resonate, there needs to be a distinctive change. What was the solution to your problem and how are you different now? Finish your story arc with a release of the tension.
5) SHOW GRATITUDE
Take a moment and look at your friends, family, co-workers and even volunteers. When was the last time you showed someone you appreciate them?
The single most effective way to build emotional capital is to show gratitude.
Try to point out the unique things others are doing well and personally recognize them with your words. A simple “thank you” and specific/honest compliment can go a long way. Fostering an attitude of gratitude can develop a healthy core for all of your relationships. If you want to motivate, then make the effort to authentically appreciate others. This gesture will help you cultivate a culture of loyalty in your personal and professional life.