Be a Good Date: Conversation Rules!

Four Principles that apply to dating, networking, and negotiations: Part 2 of 4

Featured Columnist: Lauren Perkins

Focus on the Conversation

All right single ladies, time to bring your “A” game. You’ve sufficiently primped and prepped for your upcoming date/professional mixer/contract negotiation. You are showing up to the table/bar with research completed, pitch practiced, poses nailed down, and a vision of success in mind. You have your game-face on; now it’s time to be a great partner and woo the other team.

A good date is generally someone who makes you feel comfortable. This person listens to you and asks questions based on what you are saying. Being heard makes you feel valued, validated, and understood. Likewise, when you actively listen to your partner, you demonstrate that you value their opinion and perspectives. This two-way interaction goes a step beyond simple flirting to build a foundation of trust and integrity — two elements that are essential to any successful relationship. Networking and negotiating require the same premise for optimal outcomes.

“The art of conversation lies in listening.” — Malcom Forbes

To be a networking queen and get the most from your experience, you should:

  • Ask other attendees about their purpose for attending.
  • Be honest and make conversation with people you have the most business interest in. While you should be friendly to everybody, don’t waste more than two minutes chatting with someone who you know you have no business interest in.
  • Listen to who they are and what needs they have that your business may be able to fulfill.
  • Ask strategic questions to direct the conversation- play to their needs, offer helpful hints, and suggest your business as a solution.

In negotiation, the conversation is all about identifying common ground. It’s important to keep in mind that negotiations are not a win/lose situation, but ideally both parties walk away with a greater benefit than before. But getting to the point of mutual satisfaction and value takes time and thoughtful communication.

To get what YOU want out of the deal, you should

  • Ask questions and LISTEN to their answers — what needs do they identify? What are their priorities, and how do they align (or counter) your own?
  • Find common ground — beyond the immediate negotiation terms, what goals or values do the parties share?
  • Know what particular value you bring to the table — such as your skills, experience, resources, or networks — and leverage it in the conversation.
  • What are the gaps? Are the misalignments in shared knowledge? How can both parties bridge these gaps and reach a shared understanding?

The common theme in these conversation styles is finding the balance between appreciative and assertive inquiry. Appreciative inquiry asserts that there connections and conversations can be built on a positive “core” that can then identified, explored, and expanded upon. Assertive inquiry provides space for participants to clarify their positions, define the differences and identify gaps in understanding. Both methods allow for conversation partners to gain a better understanding of their partners’ needs and perspectives, and to come up with shared solutions.

While these conversation styles may sound straightforward, and the concept of being a good listener harkens back to elementary school, these tips bear repeating because communication is crucial to success in love and business. Communication skills are necessary for nearly every current job posting, and positive communication is more closely associated with satisfying romantic relationships. So give yourself a competitive edge and get what you want by being an active listener.

To read Part 1 of 4 in this series Don’t Skimp on the Primp click here.
Lauren Perkins is a Brand Marketer, Community Builder, and Author of The Community Manager’s Playbook: How to Build Brand Awareness and Customer Engagement (Apress, 2015). As the founder & CEO of Perks Consulting, Lauren has spent a decade teaching growth stage companies to “Think like Brand. Act like a Startup.™” through her expertise in leading brand marketing and digital innovation. With a genuine love for helping and teaching people, she is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Columbia Business School and a founding instructor at General Assembly teaching digital insights, brand strategy, community management and agile marketing.
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