Conversation Tips for Building Relationships
First, I can think of an example of what not to do. People around me know I talk about health and wellness all the time. I’m not exactly a fitness buff, but I promote wellness in everything I do, and encourage others to get moving for their health. When asked about what I did over the weekend, I usually say I did some odd amount of miles or a race, and I get reactions like “That’s nuts,” and, “You’re crazy.” Um, thanks? I don’t think it’s crazy. I mean, I run a lot and do some wacky races, but it’s my hobby. It’s not like I participate in moo-ing contests (and even that is kind of adorable). I’m not easily offended so it doesn’t bother me, but I don’t do that to other people. It’s not a fun and productive way to talk to your colleagues, and it certainly doesn’t win anyone over to hear you say that you think they’re nuts, even if you’re joking.
So what do I do? I don’t think of it as a strategy, but I try to listen and give positive feedback. I tell them that what they’re working on is cool, or sounds fun. I ask questions because I’m an inquisitive person, but you don’t have to be riveted by everything someone does just to be engaged enough to hold a meaningful conversation. Are people going to want to talk to someone who is interested and encouraging, or someone who thinks they’re bananas? I think that’s obvious.
In addition to that, I try to remember what people are doing and ask them how it’s going. I’m such a talker that I can go on and on about my own pursuits (it’s why I blog so much), but I know that people don’t like to interact with someone who only ever talks about their own life. I make a mental note when someone says what they’re doing over the weekend. Then on Monday I can initiate a conversation by asking them how it went. It’s not rocket science—people like to be heard and they like to be asked.
Finally, be sincere. You can be positive and encouraging without really caring about people, and that’s transparent. When you care enough about the people around you and the atmosphere at your workplace, building relationships and being a good listener will come easy. Just pay attention to how you talk to people. If you are making a linguistic faux pas, you’ll notice and be able to correct it.
Most people reading this and being introspective are probably not the ones who need to be prompted into being friendly at work. I think that generally the motivated women who read articles from sources like Career Girl Network are bright, including being above average when it comes to emotional IQ. For the sake of everyone’s mental wellness, see if you can’t inspire others to have more positive interactions. It’s the type of thing that promotes strong friendships in real life, but it can also really improve the mood at work.