While attending a church event, I noticed two men carrying on a conversation. After a minute or so, I was intrigued with how well the young man (Ryan), roughly 28-years-old, managed the discussion with an elderly man (Don) who appeared to be in his 70s.
Many of us have heard the important rule that to be a good conversationalist you must be a terrific listener. In other words, you want to avoid dominating the discussion. It’s also critical that you allow the other person to speak without interrupting. From my sales training, I also learned the importance of pausing before speaking. By doing so, you give the impression that you are listening to the customer’s concerns.
Let me share with you what I remember about the conversation between Ryan and Don:
DON: What is your name, young man?
RYAN: Sir, my name is Ryan. Yours?
DON: My name is Eldon Donald Simpson, but I go by “Don.”
RYAN: Good to meet you, Mr. Don. What keeps you busy nowadays?
DON: Well, I’m retired now, so just a few things here and there with my wife. We’re excited about an Alaskan cruise that is coming soon.
RYAN: That does sound like fun. I’ve visited Anchorage for work, but never cruised that area. When are you going?
DON: We’re leaving here in a couple of months. We’ll fly into Vancouver, and start the trip from there.
RYAN: Do you cruise often?
DON: Since I retired four years ago, we’ve been on one every year. I like how we can make one payment and it pretty much takes care of everything. We do a few excursions here and there, but we try to stay on the ship as much as possible.
RYAN: What kind of work did you do before retirement?
DON: Let me take you back a bit. I was in the Air Force for more than 30 years. My background is in logistics, which means that I have an operations background. We had many important missions, and the work we did was critical. We had to be on our toes all the time.
RYAN: That’s so cool! My father served in the Army for 12 years, so I know the commitment you made. Thank you for your service. What did you do after separating from the Air Force?
DON: I forgot to mention that I was also a pilot in the Air Force. In the civilian world, I flew commercial planes for American Airlines. I liked that work, but the airline industry is a bit rocky, so I decided to permanently retire.
RYAN: Man! You have a terrific background. I wish I had your experience.
DON: Thank you, Ryan.
RYAN: It looks like our meeting is about to start. It was good chatting with you. See you soon, Mr. Don!
In this conversation, Ryan is asking the questions, which means that he is engaged. He interjects a few personal points to keep the discussion lively, but he avoids talking too much about himself.
The fact is that Don has tremendous experience, and Ryan can learn from it. However, and perhaps most important, you are far better received when you focus on the other person. Getting to know someone requires that you work on your listening skills, and this advice will lead to more productive personal and business relationships.