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I don’t think conversation gets the respect it deserves. Consider these facts:
I love my wife. After a little more than half our lives together I can confidently say that she is the most important and influential person I have ever known. She is half my life, literally, as the direct result of conversation. It’s how we fell in love and how we stay that way.
I love my children. They’ve taught me, tested me and have been the fuel propelling me towards my better self. I stagger daily, but will never stop striving to be worthy of guiding them and preparing them for happy lives. Conversation is where the work of parenting gets done. It’s the countless explanations to my three year old and the countless excuses from my teenagers.
I am profoundly grateful for my business partners. Together we are so much stronger, better, faster and fun than we could ever be apart. Conversation is the glue, the playground and key to the magic factory that lets this happen. It is the stone against which we sharpen our ideas and the salve that remedies our failures.
I believe that the quality of our lives is determined by the quality of our conversations. So let’s be good at this. Here are my ground rules:
- Ask questions. There’s no better way to start a conversation. “Have you lived here long?” “Did you hear about (blank)?” “I love your (blank), where did you get it?” are some of my favorites. They are guaranteed to get a reply, but then you need to keep the conversation going. How?
- Be interested first. Great conversation is a dance. It’s give and take, and wit, and repartee… but listening is critical. Instead of waiting for them to stop yapping so you can pivot to your story, try asking follow up questions instead. Like this- “Interesting. I’ve wondered about that, what is it you like most about (blank)?”
- Ask for opinions. This stops questions from feeling like an inquisition and it invites fresh thinking. The question “What’s your opinion?” and statement “In my opinion” both leave room for discussion. It communicates that you’re interested in what they think – and that’s so much more important than how tall, short, fat, rich or pretty we are. When we ask someone what they think, they immediately give us a free upgrade in their good peeps ranking.
- Make friends. If this is your goal you will almost never fail. Meet strangers with an open and accepting heart, and you’ll suddenly find new friends everywhere you go.
And now, a word of caution from my pal William Shakespeare: the tip of the tongue reveals the depth of the mind.
I used to think he was simply referring to intelligence, but he’s really talking about the transparency of our motivations as revealed by what climbs out of our word holes. So be cautious and resist the temptation to ‘always be closing’. Yes, you need sales, but don’t rush it. If you cultivate, nurture and build relationships; sales will follow.
So here’s the simple recipe for increasing opportunity: be more interested.
If you want more opportunity, be interested in more people. It’s just that simple. Stay in touch with them. Start conversations and give them a reason to keep you top-of-mind besides what you do for a living.
If you do this, I promise the rewards will be surprising. You’ll have more fun, make more friends and realize that you don’t need to talk about what you do to do more of it.