In an era of all the time connectivity there is increasing competition for the attention required to engage in meaningful conversations that move a connection forward and make a relationship better. The downside of the being constantly plugged in is that it is increasingly more common to be alone together.
Conversations that connect us matter. They create clarity. Establish expectations. Evolve understanding. Elevate emotional commitment. Resolve conflict. Solidify trust. Serve to validate and acknowledge the ideas, opinions and importance of another person.
If you are finding that technology has replaced talking or simply has become a distraction to deep dive dialogue, consider these 4 keys for more effective interpersonal communication:
1. Power Down: Turn off the technology from time to time. You cannot have compelling conversation while text messaging, tweeting and updating your status. You cannot connect when you are consistently distracted. Demonstrate respect by offering a moment of your absolute, undivided attention.
2. Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact is essential for elevated engagement during a conversation. It demonstrates sincere interest and helps you remain focused and present. It also helps you make a stronger, more meaningful connection.
3. Ask important questions: I don’t have meetings without a question map (effective, open ended questions prepared in advance designed to serve the agenda and outcome objective). I don’t want to waste anybody’s time. Skill with questions can be the difference maker between average and extraordinary sales performance (and average and extraordinary leadership). Skill with questions applies to life. And this question is still the single best question of all time for initiating new relationships. Give it a try at your next cocktail party and see what happens to the conversations you are having and the connections you make.
4. Listen: Acknowledge what you are hearing by reinforcing key points. Ask probing questions to layer the conversation and create the next level of understanding. Don’t interrupt. Don’t focus on what you are going to say while someone else is talking. Relax and really work to develop understanding. Perhaps the best rule of interpersonal communication comes courtesy of Dr. Stephen Covey, Habit 5: Seek first to understand, and then be understood (a habit you will rarely see in practice on Twitter).
Sometimes it just requires a little more effort to not be alone together.
Ryan Estis is a Keynote Speaker & Management Consultant blogging about business performance.