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John Daly: Top 9 Conversation Etiquette Mistakes

By John Daly for The Key Class |

Conversation blunders can hamper your business dealings, particularly everyday conversations. We have all said or done the wrong thing. The key is to learn from past mistakes and take a look at the most common conversation mistakes.

No. 9 – One-upmanship

Want to alienate someone quickly? Try talking about your greatness in comparison to others. So, don’t do this. Having a conversation with a client or an associate is not a competition. Avoid trying to “outdo” another person’s good news or story. Give them their 15 minutes. There is plenty of time for you to have your time to shine.

No. 8 – Not knowing your audience

What is appropriate conversation with a good friend is not always suitable for your boss or a client. Avoid rude jokes or topics about politics or religion with business-related conversation.  When in doubt, stick to business topics.

No. 7 – Changing the topic to suit your own interests

Don’t force your preferred topics of conversation on others. Instead, let the conversation unfold naturally and contribute with relevant, on-topic information. Don’t force a business conversation into a diatribe about your prowess on the basketball court or a political conversation about why everyone should vote a particular way.

No. 6 – Checking your phone

It doesn’t matter how important that next text or email is going to be. Checking your phone during a conversation is insulting to the person with whom you are conversing. Even though you live and breathe on everything that comes across on your phone, forget about it! When you pay more attention to your phone than the conversation you are having with the person in front of you, you are saying, “Hey, my phone messages are more important than you.” If you are with a client, that might just be the “kiss of death.”

No. 5 – Cursing

We’ve all done it. Sometimes, for the lack of a more appropriate word, we use profanity to enhance the conversation. If you are with your friends, the occasional use is not a big deal. But in business, it is unprofessional. If you want to get ahead in business, learn to express yourself without cursing.

No. 4 – Not introducing participants

Proper introductions are imperative in business. It is inexcusable to not make them. There is nothing worse than letting someone sit quietly being ignored. You can get away with the old “I am so sorry. This is …” one time. Being a repeat offender is punishable by being sentenced to “no man’s land.”

No. 3 – Looking over the other person’s shoulder

It is not always easy to stay focused and totally engaged during an entire conversation. Maybe the conversation has dwindled down to the end, and you are thinking about the next item on your “to-do” list. Doesn’t matter! Be respectful and keep your eyes on your companion. Resist the urge to look over the shoulder of your companion, even if Oprah Winfrey just walked through the door.

No. 2 – Monopolizing the conversation

One of the most common conversation etiquette mistakes is monopolizing the conversation. It is uncomfortable for everyone involved. One-sided conversations are boring and make you appear to be an egomaniac. One of the best qualities you can have is your ability to listen and learn from others. Keep that in mind when you are tempted to try to control a conversation.

No. 1 – Interrupting

Everyone makes this mistake. It is very common. It is also rude and disrespectful. It clearly lets your conversation partner know that you have no real interest in what he/she has to say. So how can you avoid it? Easy! As in No. 2, listen. And don’t go blocking out what the other person is saying by thinking about what you are going to say next. Once you do, you won’t be able to stop from blurting it out, defeating the purpose of listening to what the other person has to say. This is critical in a business conversation with a client or associate. You need to learn what the other party wants in order to have a meaningful business relationship.

What’s More, on Video

(Professor Tim Richardson video)

Social Life Skills 101

Want the Keys to lifelong success for your children? The Key Class will teach them Social Life Skills 101!

Register your child for The Key Class today! Just four classes — on table manners, meet and greet, respect and making others at ease with them. For those seeking jobs, we’ll teach how to create résumés and cover letters!

Held from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday at the Unitarian Society of Santa Barbara, 1535 Santa Barbara St.

Click here to register online, or contact John Daly at 805.452.2747
 or [email protected].

John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.




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