I distinctly remember my teenage years being tethered to the phone. The actual phone, attached to a wall with a cord that, with effort, could be stretched an impressive distance.
And here we are in 2017 still attached to the phone; a different phone that is tiny and cordless and knows more about us than our doctor or significant other. But here’s the thing: we rarely use this little addictive contraption to actually speak. Sure, smart phones are good for playing games or snapping photos or ignoring a text from your mother or boss or child or whomever is on The List that day, but it’s intended design was for speaking.
So why don’t we talk anymore? Because email and texting and various forms of social media have taken over the world, which is actually making it harder, not easier, to get any real work accomplished. Plus, talking seems scarier than typing because you actually have to talk.
After I spent my younger years waiting and making and waiting and making calls before my sisters could get their hands on the phone, I built a career as a motivational speaker teaching The Fine Art of Small Talk. Who knew we would all need lessons — or at least a refresher course – on the benefits of face-to-face communication and the beauty and benefit of having actual conversations with actual humans.
Granted face-to-face communications are harder to come by, but voice-to-voice communication is right there in your pocket. Literally. So use texting and email, but use it to confirm a meeting rather than replace a meeting because believe it or not more real business gets done when real conversations happen.
The Harvard Business Review published a piece on the success of face-to-face communication versus the success of an email or text. How much more successful are we with face-to-face communication? Thirty-four times more. As a teenager would say: That’s, like, a lot. Below are three simple ways to handle face-to-face or voice-to-voice communications with ease.
Three Easy Steps for Face-to-Face or Voice-to-Voice Communications
Be Prepared: Preparing yourself both physically and mentally for an exchange is crucial so after you have your pertinent information at the ready (We are on track to make our projected sales goal ahead of schedule), take a deep breath, practice your opening and smile when you speak.
Be On Time: Whether you are meeting in person or have a scheduled phone or video conference, be on time. Even a few minutes late causes you to be flustered and immediately puts your conversation partner on the defensive or simply irritated. Both are bad. Being on time is good – it gives you a moment to quietly center yourself before diving into conversation.
Be Succinct and Ready to Listen: When nervous, we have a tendency to talk louder or repeat ourselves. Resist the temptation. State your piece clearly and concisely and then allow your counterpart to speak. Silence can be unsettling at times but it is within the pause that decisions get made and questions get answered. Allowing the space for someone to process your words benefits everyone.
Then, you have my blessing to text one of your sisters to brag about your small-talk success.
Debra Fine was once a shy and tongue-tied engineer and is now an internationally recognized keynote speaker, trainer, communication expert and bestselling author. This is proof that ANYONE can learn how to small talk. Really. Even you. Fine established The Fine Art of Small Talk to teach others how to make conversation, build rapport, mingle and grow relationships at business networking events, conventions, association meetings, trade shows, dinner with people you don’t really like and other various functions you may be forced to attend.
This blog originally appeared at HuffPost. See it here.