Highlights of Our Conversation-Centered LeaderLounge

Think back to the last time you were on a flight beside a fellow human being. You choose to engage. You make small talk, cover the who’s who, and then the topics slowly become more challenging. What to say next? Can a conversation end if you’re sitting side-by-side someone for 4 hours? Is silence okay? And, dare say, do you tap the other person on the shoulder if they’re knee-deep in a book or have their headphones in to continue said conversation? (Yeah, never.)

Conversation is a human novelty with very specific, yet unwritten rules. Humour is funny until a certain un-said but universally known point. Confidence is always an attractive quality in a converser, until it very slowly begins to edge over the line to arrogance. Listening is a great conversational skill, except when it becomes overactive listening and a “let-me-finish-your-sentence” annoyance.

All of these, as well as the anatomy of a conversation and the 6 laws of great dialogue, were covered last night at our third #LeaderLounge event. Our own Peter Reek teamed up with Catherine Ducharme of OutsideIn Communications to help guide leaders in generating excellent conversational and storytelling skills. If you weren’t there last night, here’s what you missed.

For starters:

The basic building blocks of a conversation. It’s a fine balance between give and take, push and pull, back and forth, and is akin to a volleyball game or sandwich-making. (One person slathers on the butter, another piles on slices of cheese, and then out of left field someone adds a spicy jalapeno.) And yes, it all begins with a healthy dose of small talk and an understanding that every conversation is an opportunity of some kind. 


And yes, there are rules…

As mentioned earlier, there are lines, boundaries, and rules to follow in regard to human interaction in general. However, to up that interaction to a cloud nine experience, there are 6 Laws of Great Conversation to adhere to. In order to truly master the art of conversation, there are 6 laws that must be followed:

  • Risk Taking: Challenge your fears and confront the reality of the situation. Put your fear — whether it be of awkwardness, silence, or inadequacy — in your back pocket and out of sight. What’s the worst thing that could really, truly happen? Be realistic and take the chance.
  • Self Awareness: Have a grasp of your personal strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities when it comes to conversation. Know your communication style, what irritates you, and (let’s be real) what could irritate others about you. And above all: don’t be a conversational narcissist and hog the talking. 
  • Listening: Stephen Covey said it best when he encouraged people to listen to understand and not to reply. Dialogue is not simply waiting your turn to share; it’s about understanding, connecting, and relating with others. 

  • Genuine Curiosity: Studies show that people prefer likeable people over competent people. Approach conversations with authenticity and ingenuity and curiosity will be sure to follow.
  • Perspective Taking: Keep your conversations cognitive and mindful. Empathy is understanding how someone feels while perspective taking allows you to understand the why behind the feelings. Keep both your emotions and your mind in-tune to any conversation you’re in. (Except with your significant other, of course.)
  • Shared Experiences: Every person has an innate love for storytelling and sharing. Use conversation to probe, question (but not interrogate), build bridges, and create common experiences.

Some Research Required

Keep in mind that in order to have beefier small talk and conversations, you have to be in the know. If you want to talk about more than just the weather, ensure you’re reading more books, paying attention to thought leaders and conferences, consuming local and global news, knowing your geography, attending movies/concerts, and staying current on social media. You’re bound to find something to talk about (or never stop talking about) if you stay active on those fronts.


Upcoming LeaderLounge Event

Our next LeaderLounge event,
Leaders Eat Last, based on the Simon Sinek book, will take place September 30th. We look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible!