Avoiding Conversation Killers

We’ve all experienced moments when we said something expecting it would lead to an engaged conversation only to get little, or a negative, reaction. For example, asking a friend, “Hey, how is your husband?” only to have the person answer, “We split up last month.” Nowhere positive to go from there. That’s a conversation killer.

In business, this happens, too, but you can avoid a lot of conversation killers if you know what to avoid. Here are my top recommendations.

7 Rules for Avoiding Conversation Killers:

Don’t Flatter Them: Complimenting people seems innocent enough. But most of the time, it is a shallow comment made simply based on appearance. “Your hair looks great today, Mary” or “Nice tan, Jim.” That says you’ve got your mind on their looks, not their business needs. If you want to compliment someone, say something about the business. “The quarterly numbers you sent me were very impressive. Congratulations.”

Never Make a Negative Comment about Clothing: “Hey, that’s some wild tie, Bill.” Are you sure Bill thinks it is? Otherwise, you’ve just said “Who dresses you?” in front of an audience. Bill is embarrassed and you’ve really dug yourself a hole.

Don’t Talk About Yourself: I’m sure you had a fascinating vacation recently, or enjoyed a great meal at a local restaurant, or have a funny story about your Great Uncle Rob. Can it! Your client wants you to talk about them! So, if they mention your vacation, tell them where you went, that you had a great time and that “on my way back, I was thinking about your business.”

Halt When There is No Interest: You might find what you are saying intriguing but, gauge your client. Is she politely paying attention but not reacting? Move on. You’ll find a subject she does care about…like how you are going make her company more successful.

Sports and the Weather Are a Crutch…Be More Creative: Two things people generally have an opinion about are sports and the weather. And so, lots of people will bring either subject up at the beginning of a meeting as a way to break the ice. They use it as a crutch to lean on because they’re nervous about the meeting. But you’re not “lots of people” so come up with something more creative and germaine to your meeting. “Big news about Amazon this week. Incredible how one company can impact markets like that.”

Keep Your Opinions (mostly) to Yourself: Avoid any declaration of anything you have strong opinions about until you have a sense of where your client will come out on that issue. Let them lead by sharing their opinion and then, ask them questions that get them to share deeper-rooted reasoning. Eventually, you can share your thoughts but don’t overdo it. Keep it simple while you guide the conversation to what you really came there to discuss.

Don’t Swear: It’s remarkable that I have to give this advice to adults! But, so many times I hear people curse, thinking they are being colloquial or “one of the boys.” Trust me when I say that even if your client swears like a sailor, if you do it, they think it’s unprofessional at some level. Just don’t do it, for _____’s sake!

When next speaking with a client, see how many of these rules you can follow. You may find it hard at first, but eventually you will see that you are having for more constructive, positive conversations that are alive and well!

Which of these rules will be the most challenging for you? Let me know below. – SG