WE all have that one friend within our friend zones who speaks out of turn. In my case, I used to think twice before I introduced my friend Robert to my female friends. He had a funny way of creating awkward moments by saying the wrong things, inappropriate language and even today, he is still adopting ways to give others a chance to speak when he is engaged in a conversation.
Regardless of how smart or witty you are, there are times when you need to stop and evaluate the appropriateness of what you are saying.
Robert is a well groomed professional with good conversation skills but just like many other professionals we see and work with every day, they lack speech filters and they just need one.
Amplified social order calls for parents and children who are good conversationalists, business leaders with speech filters, professionals who think before they talk and not vice versa.
Some of the advice I shared with my friend was to learn how to pause. Before you open your mouth to speak, stop and think about what you are going to say. Too many people speak before they think, and when the words come out, they don’t convey the intended meaning.
Pause for a moment to allow your internal filters to take over. This may make the difference between being considered a good conversationalist and others thinking you are boorish.
Our lifestyles are generally different, what you describe as an interest or hobby to you may differ with whoever you are talking to. I find it imperative to craft your conversation topics, plan what you would prefer to discuss with others at the same time leaving room for their interests as well.
Demarcating your audience will help you when choosing topics of discussion. Toastmaster Douglas Kruger once spoke about the ‘Yes-Buts’ theory, where he points out some of the practices people can do but knowing where, when and how to practice is more important.
Yes, you can talk about your political opinions but make sure you are at a political rally or related convention, some people are just not interested in criticising political players. Yes, you can talk about age and weight issues but look at the event you are attending, is it related to age matters? You probably want to talk about age at a friend’s birthday celebration and weight topics at the gym, where every participant is either trying to lose or gain.
Personal details are confidential; I get agitated when someone asks about my finances, it’s that type of information I can’t disclose in a conversation. Same goes with health related topics, almost everyone is grossed out from talking about blood and other body fluids, unless if you are talking to health practitioners.
To be on the safe side of the scale when networking at your next business event, try discussing new business ideas, local news or if you are invited to a get together, know something about the latest movie release or music videos, I am quite sure Black Panther is the talk of the moment.
In the same way I used to discourage Robert from talking to my female friends during our hey days, may happen to you and the staff members of your organisation if they ignore their speech filters. There are institutions that are no longer invited to corporate events, they have been mentally zoned out by business partners because their representatives talk first and think later!
The people we engage in our day to day conversations, be it customers or prospective investors, involuntarily and unknowingly respond to boring conversations. Some yawn, a very disruptive reaction indeed, because it’s contagious in nature, you will find yourself yawning in the middle of your talk.
Apart from yawning and other funny mouth movements, others stop making eye contact with you and opt to look around the room.
Speech filters will help you become a better listener, a very important element of communication. Practising how to filter words and phrases in your statements will enable you not to interject the next person when he/she is speaking. Asking follow up questions during pauses in the conversation is a smart way to show that you are paying attention. Desist from saying ‘Yea, I know hey’ or ‘I know what you mean’.
Randomly changing the conversation topic to suit you is rather unfair. Taking part in any form of dialogue will require you to be considerate and accommodate other people’s views and comments.
There are people in our circles that are continuously known for vulgar language, every statement they produce in the absence of speech filters will be offensive.
Now if you have such friends and relatives, remind them whenever they speak out of turn, it will assist them to develop better relationships just like what I did with Robert.
Justice Simango is a Business Etiquette and Grooming Consultant who writes in his own capacity. He is a member of Toastmasters International.
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