I've been told by friends that I have the gift of gab. In other words, small talk comes easy for me. The truth is, it doesn't. I'm constantly working to improve my conversations with others. I think back about what I said and go over the interaction in my mind. Did I interject too much and not let my friend complete her thought? Did I speak too little and put the burden of keeping the flow of our talk on her? Did I stay focused or let my mind wander and wait for my turn to speak? I make myself a bit crazy, but it's important that I evaluate my exchanges because I want to be a better friend, confidant, and, of course, a coach. How can I be an effective trainer if I'm not actively aware of my communication skills?
Like most people, I get nervous when I meet someone new. My fear is I'll talk too quickly, ramble off-topic, or worse, be boring. Over the years, I've learned to rely on my breathing. When I feel my heart beating fast, I'll focus on my breath. I smile while I slowly inhale and exhale to calm myself. I pay attention to my posture, lift my head, and make eye contact. I think of the word patience. For some reason, that helps me stay tuned in to the person I'm greeting. I believe it reminds me to pay attention and listen carefully to what is being said.
Engaging with anyone, family, friend, co-worker, or new contact, I want to make sure I'm mindful of the conversation. Sharing our stories builds rapport and solidifies relationships. It's a give-and-take that allows us to gain insight into each other. We need to be aware that when the other person is telling their story, we give them our undivided attention and not just wait to jump in and take the conversation over.
In certain situations, it's better not to shift the focus on ourselves. For example, is this person reaching out to be consoled? If so, I want them to feel free to express themselves. I'm careful not to bring in my own personal story at this time. The focus needs to be on them. If, at a later time, it would help them to know I understand their situation because I had a similar experience, I would then tell them my story. Otherwise, I want them to know I care and am present for whatever they need. If someone needs advice and wants my input, I'll give my suggestions and try to help. There are moments when we're not asking for solutions but a chance to vent or express frustration without being judged. It helps to clarify that up front when we begin the conversation.
For me, small talk is a little like dancing. I try to pay attention to the rhythm and feel of the person I'm speaking with. Are we happy and excited, or going through a tough time? Do we need to bring in the cheerleaders, or should we head to the bar? Every encounter is different, and it's hard to always be prepared and know what to expect. If we take the time and be patient, we'll understand and assess quickly what the other person needs from us. Communication will always be key to a happy, successful life. Talk to you later!