Conversing with people years past occupied a place of tradition – face to face repertoires that we anticipated, and in which we routinely took pleasure. Verbal discourse (in the age of digital) has become somewhat antiquated when upstaged by texting, e-mail, and electronic back and forth. Oral skills (when shelved) remain dormant (or decline), particularly when we are latched to a cell phone. Statistics show that looking down at droids (and iPhones) can even result in death.
Below are some ground rules, in the spirit of facilitating rapport and improving our safety:
Look someone in the eye; a struggle for those accustomed to constant cell phone checking (e.g., millennials check their phones an average of 150 times/day). Eyeball to eyeball is imperative in establishing a connection in which both parties feel appreciated and understood. Because some persons can sleep with their eyes open, the following action items are necessary:
- Employ facial gestures – e.g., nodding and smiling (both of which are associated with interview success!), and letting people know you are involved. People are forty percent less efficient when multitasking, unable to fully comprehend the information in their midst. Distraction serves the equivalent of both mental and physical blinders to what transpires before us.
- Engage. Ask questions to demonstrate our interest, and to clarify the content. Does the subject matter spark follow-up questions, or lead to unexpected “ah ha” moments? Involvement (after a speaker has finished his or her thought train, absent interruption) can produce serendipitous benefit, synergistic ideas that would not have occurred had both parties not been actively engaged.
- Enlist courtesies. Greeting goes by the wayside as eyes face horizontal to the ground; whereas texting (while speaking) and talking via hands-free are not conducive to noticing others. It costs little (and takes minimal time) to say “hello,” and to provide a perfunctory acknowledgment of another human being. The late Mary Kay Ash states that we are all wearing a sign that reads “Make me feel important.” Our relationships may hinge on how we honor that invisible message.
- Think of others. So intent are we on speaking (and mentally rehearsing our “schtick”) that we may fail to absorb others’ messages, and to connect with them. Our undivided attention is a spectacular gift that both brands us as charismatic, and anoints recipients as “special.” A summary of what another has said (in your own words), e.g., “what I hear you saying is” “so let me rephrase what I heard,” “correct me if I am wrong, but” pinpoints our mental laser beam. An alternative to “me first” is first asking others about themselves, before launching into a self-sustained monologue. Talk to people, not at them. They will both appreciate and reciprocate.