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In my last post, I shared several commonly-asked questions that centered around conversation and connection. Many readers found the answers to these helpful. This week I’m showcasing and answering two more questions you might find interesting, especially as we navigate Company Party Season and head into 2024. I found these questions to be similar, so I’ll share both, then offer my answers.  Feel free to chime in if you have thoughts to share on these.

How do I promote myself in a conversation with my superior manager? How do I present myself without sounding narcissistic?  Great questions!  Most of us will find ourselves in a situation like this, be it a professional exchange or a purely social interaction. Either way, it will be important to know what to do so we can make the best possible impression. You may find some of my answers obvious, but a few may be surprisingly counterintuitive.

  • Take responsibility without overtaking the exchange. What I mean here is, you can begin to make a positive impression with any conversation partner, no matter who they are, by taking responsibility for making sure the conversation is mutually interesting and productive.  And this begins with…
  • Continually building, practicing, and polishing your conversation skills and professional presence. This is absolutely necessary if you want to speak articulately about yourself; expand your confidence; put others at ease in your presence and build trust; create meaningful connections in the workplace; be the candidate who wins the job, promotion, or client; keep your job during a layoff; and gain an overall edge in the work world. Double that advice if you’re in a client-facing position, but it also matters if you interact with co-workers internally. Sorry, there’s no hall pass if you’re an introvert, shy, or socially anxious. I get that we weren’t all born social butterflies. And sometimes many of us, myself included, feel totally peopled-out. But we are all human, and it’s our responsibility to expand and practice our interpersonal skills, which is a lifelong task. In stark contrast…there are some folks who have no trouble talking to others.  They have the “gift of gab” and perhaps even a high sense of self-confidence. For them I say…
  • Resist the urge to brag or talk too much about yourself, pitch anything, or dominate the conversation. No one enjoys listening to someone who rambles on about themselves. So keep this rule in mind: the standard ratio of listening to talking in conversation is 60:40. Another guideline I’ve written about is the 40 Second Rule. Speak for 40 seconds, take a breath, and let the other person speak.
  • Contribute to the conversation in an articulate and succinct way.  Practice explaining what you do and what you enjoy about your work without being too long-winded or wandering off into side subjects. It’s perfectly fine to refer briefly to something you’ve accomplished or are doing proactively to address a challenge, develop a new idea, or do your work better.  The beauty of being brief is that it may prompt questions, which you can answer in more detail. You can even touch on some of your interests outside of work. Just don’t go overboard in chatting about topics that may be of no interest to the other person.  (I think the very worst topic I’ve ever experienced in a professional conversation was a discussion of cat litter boxes. Two words: yuck and why?)
  • Be appropriately curious.  Good questions create good conversations. This means having those conversation-expanding questions ready to go, especially if you’re conversing with someone who is your senior. You might ask… “What are some of the big lessons you learned early on in your life or career?”  “Who have been some of your mentors or role models?” “What books have inspired you?” “If you had some advice or wisdom to share with me, what might that be?”  Revealing that you want to learn and improve is very appealing! Plus people love to give advice.
  • If asked a question that you can’t answer, don’t panic. Even if it’s something you should know. Be honest and humble. Say something like, “I’m sorry to say I don’t know the answer to that. But now I’m eager to find out!”
  • Allow the conversation to end naturally. Time is such a precious commodity these days. Don’t ever dominate or ask for more of anyone’s time, especially if it’s clear they’re ready to move on. This means learning how to “read the room” and pay attention to clues that the conversation is over.  A good rule of thumb: if the other person is no longer making eye contact, asking questions, or seeming intent on continuing the exchange, it’s a sign they are ready to move on.
  • Congratulate yourself.  When the conversation is finished, if you’ve followed these steps you’ve likely done well. Celebrate that. Sure, you might think of things you wish you’d said (or – ouch – wish you hadn’t), but know there’s something to be learned and improved on in every exchange. It’s all practice.  The more we do it, the better we get.

What are some of your secrets for giving a good impression in conversation? What tactics and strategies have worked for you?  I’m always interested in learning from my readers and in answering the questions that come to mind on the topic of enjoying better conversations and connections.

Interested in having a conversation about how we can work together in 2024?  My programs and events, from conversation salons and online communities to workshops and presentations, are designed to help anyone improve their business and personal socialization skills. If this is a priority for you in 2024, let’s talk!