Have you ever found yourself following the herd and having most of your conversations by email, Facebook, Tweet or text?
I believe there is a place for technology, but somehow, we have begun to replace the intricacy of everyday conversation with phlegmatic abbreviations in text and email.
When we are at work, we want to get to our objective and go on with the day. Email becomes the most expedient way to check things off the list and move on to the next task.
However, in our haste towards efficiency, we miss the substance of the By-The-Way (BTW) conversation.
The BTW conversation brings out nuggets of essential and serendipitous information and can only occur in the act of human interaction and connection.
These nuggets of conversation gold are rarely the point of the original interaction, but often add significant information, context and perspective that enlighten both parties in the verbal exchange.
What results is indispensable information, often exactly what one or both parties needed to hear.
In my experience, BTW nuggets are afterthoughts, and follow phrases such as “by the way” or “for example” or “did you know” or “I was thinking” or “have you heard.”
Here’s an example: The other day, I had lunch with a partner at my former firm. She and I had been trading emails about a speaking opportunity at an attorney association.
We talked about our work, our families and the potential of working together.
We began to talking about the challenges of marketing and connecting with prospective clients. She shared that she was trying to contact a certain company for potential work.
As luck would have it, one of my clients — who happens to work at the same firm as my lunch companion — has a client who works with the company she mentioned.
There, right under her nose, was a connection to the company she was pursuing. I am certain that gem of information wouldn’t have come out in a Tweet, or a to-the-point email.
The information she needed to hear most emerged as an incidental snippet of conversation at the end of our lunch.
Had we not connected, listened and felt comfortable sharing our challenges, she might not have ever discovered how close she was to the connection she was seeking.
I believe something magical transpires in BTW conversations, and that magic simply doesn’t work in the fast-paced world of digital communication.
If you aren’t having productive BTW conversations, it is time to step away from the computer, iPad and “smart” phone, and walk down the hall to initiate a conversation.
It doesn’t matter how well you know the other person. If you work together, you can generate fruitful conversation.
You already have the common ground of sharing a goal or problem; you simply need to create an environment where you can glean information that you would never have thought to ask for.
If you haven’t been experiencing the beauty of the BTW conversation, here are four ways to set the stage:
1 – Start a conversation in person or via video conference.
When you need help or information, it is essential to read all the non-verbal cues that informs conversation. This takes away the miscues that are so ripe in email, and that feed emotional and illogical reactions to misinterpretation. Visual connection also helps you to convey your sincerity and humanness.
2 – Turn off phones and email.
To get to a serendipitous nugget, you have to focus on the person and the conversation. You have to be present in body and mind. Having your cell phone or blackberry in your hand communicates that your focus is on something or someone else rather than the person you are speaking with. If you come to the conversation hands free, more than likely, the other person will respond by ignoring their gadgets, as well.
3 – Have a point, not an agenda.
Be ready to discuss the issue at hand, but let the conversation evolve. Listen and encourage the ideas of the other person. Don’t interrogate. Rather, investigate the issue and ask for insight. This is not about gossip; the conversation should focus on the other person and the insight you need from them to solve a problem or get assistance.
4 – Be vulnerable and open.
Show your humanness and share your need. If you are protected, circumspect and defensive, real conversation will never develop. Ironically, being vulnerable leaves you susceptible to emotional attack, but it also leaves you open for emotional support. It helps you appear genuine and underscores the connection in the conversation. This doesn’t mean you have to bare your soul; you only need to reveal your need.
For me, the real beauty of the BTW conversation is the beauty of connection.
Connection – the act of giving and receiving – creates a space for serendipity, which can lead to the answers you need.
All it takes is taking time to see and connect with someone else.
Have you gotten insights from your BTW conversations? What do you think makes them successful?
(This post originally appeared on foodonourtable.com.)
About Jennifer: Jennifer McClanahan-Flint offers a variety of solutions for high-achieving, professional women faced with the new territory of transitioning into leadership positions in their careers, while simultaneously transitioning into motherhood. Jennifer understands the struggles that working moms face every day because she is a working mom herself. You can read more about Jennifer’s services on her website: www.foodonourtable.com.
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