In our recent webinar, “The Art of Conversation for Customer Success,” Jamie Cole, TaskRay’s Chief of Staff, spoke with Carolyn Keyes of Velocity Plus, to take a deep dive into the three foundational elements for successful conversations. While their focus was on work conversations, these tips are also applicable for conversations with family, friends and daily life in general (think: contentious call with your cell phone provider).

Most, if not almost all of our conversations at work involve some sort of ‘ask.’ When you’re trying to accomplish a specific goal, delegate tasks, or solicit help, you are having a request conversation. Unfortunately, requests are often misconstrued due to unclear asks or intentions. However, if you know how to set the stage for these conversations, you’ll increase your chances of getting what you’re requesting and build trust along the way. 

In this blog, we have summarized the key takeaways and concepts from our webinar to help you conduct conversations with clarity and ease.

Here are the three most important conditions that must be present for successful conversations:

  1. A Committed Speaker

Being a committed speaker means being prepared—and being clear about what results you are hoping for—prior to a conversation. 

It also means being aware of your personal energy:

  • Make sure your request is clear and originates from a peaceful and calm state. 
  • Check that you are present and not coming in frazzled or stressed. 
  • Put your phone and computer on “do not disturb” to establish a distraction free-zone. If in a cubicle, put up a note to let others know not to disturb you.
  • Notice your body language— soften your face, slide your shoulders back, and lift your head.
  • Make eye contact to create a connection.  
  • Slow your breathing to help you stay present. 
  1. A Committed Listener

You cannot control the person you are speaking with, but there are some things you can do to increase your chances of success. The most important thing you should do before starting a conversation is to check their body language and their mood. If the person seems to not be in a great place to hear from you, try:

  • Making a little small talk to get them engaged in the conversation.
  • Asking probing questions to help you figure out it’s the right time for this conversation. If the person seems distracted, or you notice that the mood seems to be off, ask “Is this a good time for this conversation?”

As a committed speaker, you also need to be a committed listener. This involves setting all the conditions for being a committed speaker and then listening to understand, versus listening to answer. When we’re listening to answers, we are often rushing to respond and focused on what we will say next. Listening to understand is about slowing down and asking questions to ensure you are in sync with the person you are speaking with. 

If you find yourself coming into a conversation agitated, try:

  • Taking a few deep breaths
  • Thinking about your happy place (the beach, in a cafe in Rome, at home in your backyard…)
  • If you can’t get it together, it’s definitely better to ask to reschedule. Because, as Carolyn says, “The right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation.”
  1. A Shared Background of Obviousness

Probably the most important condition for a successful conversation is that everyone involved truly understands what you’re talking about and working from the same body of information. In a society that rewards answers, it can feel difficult to ask questions. But clarification is extremely important. Often we think because we know how to do something, the other person will too. This is just not always the case!

Here’s a quick, funny story that illuminates the importance of a shared background of obviousness: On this particular day, Carolyn was supposed to meet with Jamie at the TaskRay office in Denver. Just prior to their meeting, Jamie called Carolyn and told her she was heading to Aspen but would be a few minutes late. Which completely confused Carolyn, as she thought they were meeting in person in Denver. What Carolyn didn’t know is that one of TaskRay’s conference room’s is named…you guessed it…Aspen! That’s what we mean when we talk about a shared background of obviousness—you’ve got to ensure all parties have the same understanding or something is bound to go wrong.

A few tips to help you establish a shared background of obviousness:

  • Check for sincerity: If the person you are making the request of doesn’t seem to have a full grasp of what you are asking for, ask them if there’s anything they aren’t clear about and be willing to provide as much clarification as they need. If you create a safe space for them to ask questions, they will be more honest about what they need in order to agree to your request.
  • Check for reliability: If the person you are making the request from seems hesitant to say, “yes”, it may mean they lack the skills required to complete your request. Ask questions to suss out whether or not they need training or if perhaps they are not the right person to fulfill your request.
  • Provide relevant details: For example, if you are setting up meetings and work with clients or team members in different states, be sure to include the time zone in meeting invites.

A great customer experience hinges, in large part, on the ability to carry on productive conversations. To learn more about the Art of Conversation for Customer Success, read the full eBook here.

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