We are losing the art of conversation

Communication is key to a healthy workplace. It’s essential to ensure businesses keep going, thrive are keep up with innovation. Yet never before have we been so connected, yet so disconnected. It is a strange point in our history. Technology advances have allowed us to be much more global, digital and instant in our communication yet our ability to concentrate, listen and have good conversation is diminishing. Are we losing the art of conversation? 

Think of our emerging generation of workers. Research shows that one third of teenagers send more than 100 texts a day. And they are more likely to text their friends something that tell them face to face.

When some of us older people were growing up, we had to wait to see our friends to tell them something interesting. Or we had to call them on the land line, navigate their parents to eventually get to our friends and tell themselves using our voice and have an actual conversation. While school aged children spend plenty of time learning the school curriculum, how many hours are dedicated to teaching them good communication and interpersonal skills, essential for when they enter the ‘real world’.

Are we teaching them the importance of listening, of being able to concentrate when others are talking, the art of conversation, whereby we listen without judgement and use verbal and non-verbal cues to show we are listening.  

Think of the workplace today, it would be very easy for some of us to go the entire day or week without having an actual conversation. We can get jobs done by communicating via email, instant messaging, texts etc.. Voice conversation has in some ways become unnecessary to get things achieved at work. In many cases we prefer not having verbal or face to face conversations about work. And even if we did prefer the more traditional forms of communication, it’s not hard to feel the tension when we do choose this method of communicating when we could have just sent an email. While it certainly has it’s place, we need to be acutely aware of the diminishing returns of choosing to have less face to face communication in our day to day workings. 

We need to reconnect with one another and create more meaning to our work. We need to understand one another and engage in one another in order to feel inspired, connected and part of something bigger than ourselves. Think of a time when you had a great conversation with someone and you left feeling engaged, understood, validated, heard, and inspired to do better. There’s no reason your conversations can’t all feel this way, for you and the person you are having the conversation with. 

Here are a few ways to improve your conversation and connection; 

  1. Be present. It’s so easy to be distracted. We are creating generations that have a 30 second attention span. Even our news is dished out in 30 second clips on social media. Being able to be present in any given moment without distractions, and remain that way for at least half an hour is becoming a dyking skill in itself. If you want to have a meaningful conversation with someone don’t make them feel too rushed, remove your digital distractions – turn off your phone, don’t have your computer nearby, go into a quiet room or leave the office and go for a walk or coffee. While having a conversation, try not to think of any other things, just try to focus completely on the conversation.
  2. Listen better. With distractions out of the way, practice your deep listening skills. Hear what the person is saying, see it from their point of view, ask reaffirming questions to clarify what it is they have told you, use your body language to show you are listening. If and when you find yourself waiting for them to hurry up and finish so you can talk, take a breath and relax and let them keep going, don’t be in a rush to wrap up what it is they have to say. As Steven Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” says; “most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply”. When we are talking we are in control, so we need to embrace a certain degree of surrender and the ability to go with the flow if we want to be better at listening to other people. 
  3. Be curious. Being curious about the world around us leads us to seek to be more engaged with people. We tend to be more open to new ideas and perspectives and less stuck in our own opinions and ideas when we embrace the concept that there is always an opportunity to learn something new from someone else. 
  4. Create more opportunities for authentic conversation. Coming together more and creating opportunities for natural conversation to spark up is important. We are losing those opportunities more and more in our digital world, so creating space to connect is important. Having days where everyone comes into the office, going on-off sites and team building events is important too. 

We need to make the effort to stay connected in meaningful ways more than ever before. The human experience is all about connection. Start brushing up on your conversation skills today and let me know the difference it makes! If your leadership team could do with my help, please get in touch today, I’d love to hear from you.

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