Monday, June 12, 2017


Conversation, whether at work or socially, presents an opportunity to build friendships, reinforce a comfortable and confident self-image, and improve your standing professionally. But it has to be done in the right way.

Think “ping pong” when speaking to another person. There is no conversation –no “game”—unless the ball (the “conversational point”) keeps moving from one “player” to the other. If you’re afraid to hit the ball back --thinking you don’t know what to say-- the remedy is simple. Don’t drop the ball with a one-word answer. Keep the conversation flowing! Reply, and then either add more information or ask a question of your own.
--Hi I’m Jim. Don’t believe we’ve met.
--Toshi. Nice to meet you. No, I joined the company just this month.
--Everything going okay so far?
--Yes, although I’m sure it will take some adjustment. Have you been here long?
--Three years, two in Quality Control and one in Diagnostics.
--I’m in QC now and everybody’s been very helpful…
For those whose cultures value politeness and thoughtful silence (East and Southeast Asian cultures, for example) or where women and younger people are taught to defer to males and others in authority, you will need to step up and grab your chance to express yourself. You are not impolitely interrupting; you are engaging in the game!

Everyone should practice this to get it right with Americans. For people whose cultures stress competitiveness, hierarchy and bravado (such as Russian, German, and Israeli, to name just a few) or those with strong personalities who want to do all the talking, you must learn to “share” the conversation, consciously take turns, and practice listening before returning to your own voice too quickly.

Next time we’ll switch sports from table tennis to basketball to see how to talk among several people, not just one-on-one.