While gatherings of friends or family members can seem a relaxing, easy going time where conversation flows like wine, the same approach won’t cut it in the board room. When trying to start conversations with clients and coworkers, you need to adjust your methods for a more professional environment, ensuring discourse that is elevated beyond casual conversation, but that is not so stuffy as to inhibit familiarity. Here are a few tips to starting effective conversations in work and business environments.
SOLICIT A COLLEAGUE’S THOUGHTS
Chances are you and your coworkers are working on numerous, unique projects that would benefit from sharing data or problem-solving from a fresh point-of-view. Bring up some aspect of a project that you may be stuck on, or are uncertain about. These kinds of discussions tend to be excellent conversation starters as both you and your counterpart embark on a (hopefully) fruitful exchange of ideas and concerns. This also gives your conversation partner a great opportunity to share his or her own problems with their own work, and solicit your advice.
FIND A FUNNY OR AMUSING ANECDOTE
When meeting with an important client, try to diffuse the initial tension by telling a funny (but tasteful) joke, or relate an amusing story that happened to you or someone you know recently. Try to avoid making any jokes about the matter you and the client will be discussing, however, as it will likely make you seem unnecessarily cavalier and indicate to your client that you are not taking his business seriously. In fact, try to keep any tension cutters off of the subject of business, because the idea behind such a tactic is to get everyone’s mind off of the impending meeting momentarily and to diffuse any anxieties.
Discussing the general performance of your company with your coworkers is often a great way to not only start a good conversation, but to learn things you did not previously know about the state of the company, and these conversations also allow you and your coworkers to form a sense of teamwork and camaraderie amid in the knowledge of your collective fates.
Often the easiest way to kick off a conversation with coworkers or clients is simply to ask how their weekend went, or what they did after work the night before. Such questions offer a great way to everyone’s minds off of work or business for a while, and forge bonds on subjects beyond your shared business lives.