Essential to your success as an effective, engaging communicator is learning not only what to say, but what not to say. The following guide examines several sentences, phrases and questions that stand in your way of connecting and communicating with confidence.
Do you remember me?
If you walk up to someone and the first words out of your mouth are, "Do you remember me?" I guarantee you will a) make them feel uncomfortable, b) pressure them into giving an answer, and c) cause them to lose face when they regretfully tell you they can't seem to remember who you are.
Some people are good with names; others are good with faces; while others can't seem to recall a single person they've ever met in their lives. But no matter what type of memory a person has, "forgetting someone" is one of the most embarrassing feelings anyone can experience ? especially if they've met you several times before.
Therefore, if you know someone doesn't remember you, rescue them. Just tell them who you are. Odds are, deep down they'll be signing, "Oh thank God he told me his name ? I didn't want to ask!"
SUCCESS SENTENCE? #1: "Hi! I'm Scott with Front Porch Productions ? we met last month at the Chamber Meeting when Carol introduced us."
Here's my card...
The rule of business cards is: don't give it to anyone who doesn't ask for it. It's presumptuous. Sadly, the exchange of business cards is a ritual that our culture has de-formalized over the past 20 years. On the other hand, some high-context cultures like the Japanese view this as a sacred business ritual.
For conversational effectiveness, don't assume that somebody wants your card. Think about it: how many times has someone given you one of their cards ? without asking ? to which you thought to yourself, "Okay?and what do you want me to do with this?"
SUCCESS SENTENCE? #2: "May I give you one of my cards?"
So...what do YOU do?
According to CNN.com, the US rate of unemployment in September of 2004 was somewhere between five and six percent. Unfortunately, those are just the reported cases. So don't overlook the possibility that the person you're talking to is unemployed, was recently fired or is in the process of finding a new job.
Asking someone "So...what do YOU do?" is an assumption. And if you utter this phrase, it may necessitate a shoehorn the size of Shaquille O'Neal to get your foot out of your mouth. Instead, ask less specific, yet open ended questions that empower an engaging response.
SUCCESS SENTENCE? #3: "How do you spend most of your time during the week?"
Can you believe the weather?
I've read almost every book on starting conversations, mingling, breaking the ice, networking and meeting people ? and I have yet to find one that doesn't say:
"Talking about the weather is always a good way to start a conversation."
No it isn't. It's a terrible way. And just because everyone uses it doesn't make it effective. Starting a conversation about the weather means you've settled for starting a conversation about the weather! This makes your conversation partner feel like you've settled for them too. And every time you do it, you show the other person that you aren't a good enough conversationalist to talk about anything other than the weather.
But I have faith in you. You can do better than that.
SUCCESS SENTENCE? #4: "What was the best part about your weekend?"
Are you a new member?
There's only one feeling worse that forgetting someone: devaluing someone. In your organization, club, business or association ? there are bound to be dozens, possibly even hundreds of members you've never met. That's okay. You can't keep a tab on everybody. People come in and out of organizations all the time, and not everyone comes to every meeting.
So don't assume that someone is a newbie simply because you don't know them. Even if you think "Oh, I know everybody," there are always people on the fringes. Perhaps they joined the organization five years ago. Maybe they've been out of town for a few months or their schedule conflicts with certain meetings or events.
SUCCESS SENTENCE? #5: "I don't believe we've met before ? my name's Scott."
Combating Conversational Crappiness
Some people don't think before they speak, and the price to pay is at the expense of their partner's conversational comfort. But if you avoid these five communication barriers, you will be certain to make the other person you're engaging with feel welcome and valued.
© 2005 All Rights Reserved.
Scott Ginsberg is a professional speaker, "The World's Foremost Expert on Nametags" and the author of HELLO my name is Scott and The Power of Approachability. He helps people MAXIMIZE their approachability and become UNFORGETTABLE communicators - one conversation at a time. For more information contact Front Porch Productions at http://www.hellomynameisscott.com.