It’s Day 2 of my 17-day odyssey, sharing ideas with people from Seattle to Mauritius.
I’m writing while on a flight from Seattle to Newark, 25 rows behind Rudy Giuliani, who is sitting in the aisle seat in the first row of first class. Rudy got on the plane early, and did a great job of keeping his eyes glued to his BlackBerry as people stared when they crowded past him. (Update for those of you who read yesterday’s post: After much hassle, I got my suitcase back from United Airlines. And, I stayed calm throughout it all.)
One irony of my travels is that, although I’m traveling alone, I’m constantly engaged in conversations. Conducting interactive workshops, side conversations with people during these events, engaging in a stream of phone calls as I move from place to place, chatting with people in lines at the airport; I’m always talking with people.One thing I always try to be aware of is the quality of the conversation I’m in.
How fluid is the dialogue? Is there too much monologue? Are we connecting and sharing? Are we both present? I grade myself pretty hard. If you’re speaking with me, and I drift into monologue, you can bet that I know it and I’ll chastise myself later. If you catch me spacing out, not paying attention to what you’re saying, you should be confident that I caught myself also. (Even though I’m spacing out.)
In fact, if you’re ever speaking with me, in person or by phone, and you think my quality of conversation is lacking, I invite you to call me out on it.I think of this self-monitoring as “The Conversationometer”, and I think it is a really healthy tool to use, all the time. In every conversation, especially those with customers, continuously monitor the quality of your dialogue. Is the dialogue fluid?
Am I listening, and responding based on what I’m hearing? Are we locked in together in true dialogue, or are we committing “monologue disguised as dialogue?”In an interview on page 83 of my book We, Karyn Kedar uses the metaphor of a sailboat tacking with the wind to explain how to keep a conversation on track. You’re paying attention, constantly feeling the wind, and making adjustments as needed to move swiftly through the water.Why is it so important to self-monitor your contribution to a conversation? Because your customer is also monitoring the quality of the conversation.
Don’t believe that you can get away with monologue, or weak dialogue, without being found out. Use The Conversationometer to ensure that you are totally engaged in genuine dialogue with your customer.When I witness someone entrenched in monologue, it often seems like they aren’t even aware of what they’re doing. They get on a roll, blabbing away, without even noticing that they’re not really in a conversation. I want to hold an aural mirror up to their ears (that’s a bizarre image) and say, “Listen to yourself!” Which is ironic, because most of the time no one else is listening to the monologuer.The most important asset your business has is its relationships, and true conversation is the blood flow of relationship-building encounters.
Think of The Conversationometer as being like one of those heart monitoring machines in the hospital. Don’t flatline.