Have you ever been at a networking event and wanted to speak with someone, but they were already deep in conversation with others? You can't just barge in ...
How to Join a Business Conversation
How to enter a conversation that has already started.
Move into the group
When you join a meeting or happen upon a conversation that you want to consider joining, the first step is to physically move into the group. This does not mean you move into the center of the group. Rather, you humbly and respectfully join the outer fringe of people who are gathered.
Listen with an open mind
Listen to the conversation to confirm you want to be part of it. Consider which people are most vocal. Are they explaining or selling? Are they sincere or biased? Are others engaged, or frustrated because they cannot participate or don't agree? Is this a topic you truly want to discuss, or is it simply politics, gossip, or trivia? Confirm the conversation adds value to you.
Consider how to add value, then do it briefly
Audibly join the conversation only if you can add value. Do not repeat something that has already been said in your own words. Add a perspective that is new, or ask a question that may be a catalyst for new thought. For instance you might say, "I know I'm a bit late to this discussion, but have you considered...?" Be brief. Be bright. Be patient. It is wiser to speak less and listen more.
Wait for eye contact
Another option is to delay joining the conversation until someone makes eye contact with you. Ideally at that point you have already identified something of value you can add to the conversation. If not, and someone calls on you, then with a big smile humbly reply that you are just listening and considering their opinions at the moment. You will comment when you can add value.
Most of the time if the conversation adds value for you, and you have the time to spare, then listening longer is beneficial. Give yourself more time to fully comprehend all the perspectives that are being brought to the table. Consider not only the data, but the emotions and biases of each participant.
Ask a question
Great leaders ask great questions. I am not encouraging you to drive the conversation down a “rabbit hole." However if you can ask a question that helps the group better understand something, you add significant value to the conversation. Just choose your questions wisely.
Continue to listen & ask more questions that add value
Demonstrate active listening, which is repeating back summary statements of what you hear to confirm you are understanding others correctly; and ask new questions that help people better discuss their objectives.
How to Leave a Business Conversation
Some conversations are mistakes to join, or go on longer than you would like. Exit gracefully.
Plan your getaway
Whether you are standing on the fringe of a group conversation or sitting at the table in meeting, it is important to plan your departure carefully. We have all been there. We join a conversation only to realize it has limited or no value to us, and we cannot add value to it.
Be respectful. As much as possible, do not interrupt the conversation. Consider the least disruptive way to leave, and wait for your opportunity.
Explain this is a “Different Topic” and you need to go
One option is to excuse yourself saying the conversation is more about a different topic than you had thought. Apologize for your departure, but explain you have a couple of important deadlines to meet and therefore must get back to your other work.
“Late for another meeting”
If you can honestly say you are late for another meeting, then do so. Your primary motivator may be the discussion you joined was going on longer than planned, or was different than you expected. However if you honestly have another meeting, or need to prepare for an important meeting, then be honest, respectful and brief. Apologize, and leave.
“Sorry, I don’t think I can add value to this conversation…”
You may decide at some point in the conversation that you cannot add value to the meeting. That is okay. Simply excuse yourself humbly. Apologize for your interruption. Explain that you do not think you can add value to the conversation and therefore need to get back to other work with pressing deadlines. (Doesn't everyone have deadlines looming?)
Be respectful, honest and polite
It's kind of like Nordstrom. They train their sales people to make the return process as pleasant as the purchase. You want to do the same when exiting a meeting. Make your departure from the conversation as polite, honest and respectful as your entry into the meeting or conversation. Do not close doors, hurt relationships or offend people.
I hope this is helpful. Share it with your team. Discuss it openly. We all want to join conversations from time to time, and get stuck in conversations or meetings that are not the best use of our time.
Demonstrate great leadership etiquette by entering and exiting conversations in ways that honor the other people. Then you are more likely to be welcomed into future conversations.
The primary cause of client complaints and employee issues is not technical skills. People perform poorly because they lack soft skills. What separates leaders from managers are social competencies like attitude, manners, collaboration, and communication that often aren't covered in managed IT services job training. At Dave’s Charm School, we teach 12 essential behaviors your team needs to know to improve professionalism, work better together, increase customer satisfaction and ultimately grow your business. It is our hope that MSPs leverage their time spent with us learning business etiquette so as to recruit, hire, onboard, develop and retain more IT talent for years to come.
Email me if you have any questions. In the meantime, check out this other helpful blog content:
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