Updated: Nov 17, 2019
The Give and Take of Conversations
The floor is yours
By human nature, we love to talk about ourselves, and many of us just love to talk. While this can be a strength, it can become an overused strength. We can experience, both as the speaker and the audience, situations where someone talks too much and is not engaging you or others in the conversation.
Two experiences have stuck with me. I think they are great examples of the extremes of how people respond when they have the floor to speak. Let me share them with you
and get you thinking about how you perform when the floor is yours.
I do a lot of networking. One of my connections asked me to meet with someone who was in career transition. After we had done the initial get-to-know each other, I asked an open-ended question, and off he went. He spoke all about himself for 20 minutes. I wasn’t totally engaged in what he was sharing because it wasn’t helping me figure out how I could help him.
That was my first impression, and it left me feeling like he wasn’t perceptive of other’s needs. In networking situations like this, while he’s the one in need of a job, the ideal conversation is figuring out how you can help one another. Rather than spending 20 minutes on all that he’d done, what if he’d shaped a conversation, yes a conversation, about what he wanted to do and where he thought that intercepted with the work I do. Even if his assumptions of the interceptions were wrong, it would have enabled a great discussion.
I noticed the opposite of this experience as an observer. On my morning coffee shop run, I did my usual look about to see what was happening. A group of seven people caught me eye. They were deep in conversation. It wasn’t several conversations as often happens with groups this size, it was one person speaking. This lady had her audience completely engaged, and everyone was attentively listening. I have no idea what they were talking about, but it was obvious that she had the floor and her audience very much wanted to hear what she had to say. I had to resist the urge to join them as I’ve not seen that much attention, respect for the speaker, and engagement in a conversation in a long time. I was curious about the topic and how she garnered so much respect and attention to what she was sharing. I wanted to be part of the conversation.
So there’s the tale of two stories. In one story the audience wasn’t engaged enough, and in the other, the audience was fully engaged. Which conversation do you want to be part of?
Taking your cues from your audience
Be respectful when you take the floor and know your audience and their limits. When someone has the floor, give them your attention and engagement. When your audience isn’t giving you the cues of where their engagement is, pause and check-in. These days I find groups open about helping speakers gauge their pace, content, and when to move on. If you start getting random questions, then you know it’s time to turn the floor back over to someone else.
Do you need to take the floor?
Need a gauge to see when you should speak up? Try this exercise. Before your weigh in on the conversation or meeting, pause for ten seconds and ask yourself these three questions:
Do I need to say it?
Do I need to say it now?
Do they need to hear it from me?
There may be times you’ll find that you don’t need to take the floor. Let one of your team have it or save your floor time for something worthwhile.
Communication mastery is such
an essential skill of leadership.
In this journey to mastery there is no finish line, it must be a continuous focus and adaptation of your execution.
Be a communicator, not a talker.
Now that I’ve taken the floor and shared my views, the floor is all yours. What do you have to say about this?
Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.