Conversation Rules! In business and life, conversation opens doors, lets us through doors and then helps us understand the paths taken from these doors! Conversation identifies needs & solutions; can sooth grief; convert conflict into agreement; deepen joy; extend authentic empathy; close sales; create surprises and miracles! Conversation has no software upgrades nor does it require a financial investment. It is available to all with immediate access!
With all its greatness, conversation is bypassed by many – those who are lost for how to open a conversation and sometimes by those who don’t know how to continue and deepen a conversation. It doesn’t matter where – in business, out and about, in the grocery store, anywhere — opportunities, for whatever the reason, are missed.
If this is happening (or not happening) to you, an easy “go to” for opening and enriching conversations are the tried and true 5 interrogatives, “who, what, when, how & why” … the 5 W’s we’ve been taught to address when we write or talk about a subject, i.e. who are you talking to, what are you saying, how do you want the audience to receive/respond to your info and when, and lastly what is your “why,” your purpose, for what you are saying. With a small bit of tweaking, the 5 W’s are great “go to’s” when lost for words to open and/or deepen our conversations. Use them for “opening” conversations with strangers, with employees and/or with friends to discuss sensitive situations, create engagement with prospects & clients, deepen relationships, explore differences, and more!
Let’s look at each one:
WHY: Why is used when curious! If you’ve lived with a 2 -3 year old you are very familiar with “why?” However, it works! Why is also used as an exchange for one’s purpose. “What is the “why” of your speech, what is it’s purpose?” Why can be a bit invasive, so sometimes it needs to be softened. Be sure to use the right delivery, as it can make the receiving end become defensive.
Opening with WHY: “It would be great to know the “why” behind this event!“ and “Forgive me, I’m just wondering why you look sad today?”
Deepening with WHY: “Why do you say that?” and “Your “why” for this solution would be?”
HOW – How is great for showing interest. Tone of voice is very important …. You must be authentically interested or “how” can come across “doubting” … Use it to reflect interest & wonder, not doubt.
Opening with HOW: “How was the event last night?” “How are you feeling?”
Deepening with HOW: “ How did you accomplish that?” “ How do we go about contributing more to this situation?”
WHAT – Another great opening for both interest and curiosity! Tone of voice plays a role , for example, there are multiple ways to say, “What in the world?” Delivery is always important.
Opening with WHAT: “What brought you to this event?”
Deepening with WHAT: “What was it that inspired you?” “What’s the objective here? “
WHEN – When can create a reply, but be careful. It can create a simple short answer. Be prepared to follow it up with a how, what, why, etc..
Opening with WHEN: “When did you arrive?” “When did the meeting start?” and/or “When the meeting began I was on the phone, can you tell me what I missed?”
Deepening with WHEN: “When was that?” and/or “When I arrived, I was doubtful of this event, what did you think of it?” “When I was young we couldn’t do things this way … your thoughts?”
WHO – Who is kind of an inquisitive opening and sometimes needs a follow-up.
Opening with WHO: “Who are the creators of this event? Would you know their backgrounds?” “Who are the decision makers here? Anyone I might know?” or “Who are you?”
Deepening with WHO: “Who would respond to the message delivered in that speech? What type of professionals? and/or “Who benefits the most from these services? “Who are we targeting?”
Each one of these triggers have multiple ways they can be used based upon where you are, what the situation is, and all the surrounding elements. Remember to watch your tone and delivery. If using the 5 W’s in an email, explain your intended tone or recipients will apply their own tone to your words. Also always, always, always use them authentically. Wait for the answers and respond accordingly. One of the most abused phrase is “How are you?” Think how many times you’ve been asked that question without the person asking even waiting for your reply! Do not turn the 5 W’s into just figurative terms… use them authentically. Be authentic with all your communications.
Know, the next time you see an opportunity to open dialogue with a stranger, take on an uncomfortable situation at work or home, want to just be more social and interactive with fellow workers or community members …. go to these easy to remember triggers of “who, what, how, when and why. One of them, for sure, will be useful in opening up a dialogue and/or adding value to continuing dialogue.
Here’s to your communications success!