Sure, everyone periodically has to have some kind of important, yet often difficult and complex conversation. These conversations can range anywhere from family to friends or coworkers and vary in intensity. In the business world it gets even more in-depth as there are customers, accounts and even vendors with whom the relationship can hinge on your ability to have those complex dialogues. What about your immediate surroundings? Ever have to have that difficult conversation with a colleague? An employee? The boss??

 In your quest for mastery of communication skill there are some fundamentals essential in having an effective, result oriented conversation. Those specifics revolve around improving your ability to engage in the conversation or more to the point, E.N.G.A.G.E., which is yet another clever acronym (brought to you by yours truly) for;

 Empathetic Listening

It cannot be overstated how important the ability to listen is, with the intent to understand. There is a big difference between “hearing” and “listening” and empathetic listening goes a bit farther by putting you in the other person’s point of reference. Think about that fact that almost all of your schooling revolved around learning to read, write and/or speak. How many classes did you have on listening? Most people have had very little practice on developing their listening skills.

 Neutral Acknowledgement

Means no “blame game”, no accusatory language or tone, it also means that you are not necessarily agreeing or acquiescing to what the other person is saying. It is simply restating and reflecting the other person’s position to their satisfaction. This does two things, first it demonstrates that you are listening and understand what is being said. Second, it adds to your credibility by showing sincerity and allows the other person to be less guarded or confrontational. Restating often involves rephrasing what the other person is saying in the form of a question (“It sounds like what you are saying is…….etc. Do I understand you correctly?”). However you restate, it must be natural, sincere and in your own speaking style.

 Get The Facts

“Just the facts” was a tag line on a popular detective show many years ago and it still applies. What are the real issues and the facts surrounding those issues? Conversations can easily drift out of context and get heated. Keep cool and focus on the relevant facts. 

 Ask Appropriate Questions

Knowing when to ask open-ended questions versus the closed yes/no question can make or break the conversation. Open-ended invites more discussion on an issue and is good for fact gathering but not good if you want a quick, simple reply. There is also a third “minimal options” type of question, where you present a couple of likely options that could apply to the conversation or circumstance and the other person responds to what is more likely. Mastering good questions is not tough, just takes some forethought and practice.

 Go For Synergy

It’s not idealistic or “feel good psychology” to think that there could be a better alternative or solution than either party initially proposed. Set the pride and the defenses aside for a moment, focus on the solutions as opposed to being right, get creative. What would be a real win, for both sides? In the world of communication, 1 + 1 can equal 3.

End Positive

A business mentor once said, “No matter what road you go down with someone, make them feel good about it.” Summarizing, restating the win/win, confirming the steps going forward and stressing the positives that can come from the conversation can all have that good aftertaste effect. At worst case scenario, you both simply agree to disagree, agreeably. Looking each other in the eye, smiling and shaking hands builds respect and credibility towards future conversations.

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