This blog is a little different from previous blogs and podcasts. This week, we talk & learn about “TABLE TALK” – or what to say and do when interacting with others around a table.
For this blog more than any other, I would really appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to tell me what you like, what you don’t like, ideas, your personal experiences, or anything else. Bring it on!
FIRST – CONTEXT
My inspiration for this week’s topic came to me while I was examining the list of over 25 topics (!!!) we have covered so far with Talk About Talk podcasts and/or blogs. It occurred to me that we now have a foundation to improve our communication skills at a more general or meta-level.
Let’s start with “TABLE TALK” !!!
No matter your age or vocation, we all experience table talk in some form… It could be at a work meeting, in a restaurant or cafeteria, attending a formal dinner, or sitting around a coffee table in a friend’s living room. And certainly, table talk transcends communication at a physical table. It could be when we are communicating with others at a cocktail party, a work event, at a sporting event, or otherwise.
I pulled together many of the learnings from previous podcasts and blogs into an easy formula that will surely help us become more confident and effective communicators when we find yourselves in any of these situations. It’s as easy as ”A-B-C-D-E”!!
Introducing: “The ABCDE’s of Table Talk.” Yes, I have personally tested this formula. Last week I attended the Ensemble conference, hosted by our “Trust” expert Baron Manett…
I registered at the door, then walked in and got myself a glass of wine. I turned around to a sea of strangers. I spotted some space at a cocktail table with a few people chatting. So I slowly walked over – rehearsing the ABCDE’s in my mind! Guess what? It worked!!!
THE ABCDE’s of TABLE TALK
So I walked over to the cocktail table, rehearsing the A-B-C-D-E’s in my mind. Honestly, it worked like magic. After introducing myself and learning other’s names, I went straight to “(A): Ask Qs”
A. Ask Qs
Several Talk About Talk guest experts have encouraged us to ask open-ended Qs. So instead of “how are you?” (Fine thanks, you? – boring!), try “So – what brings you to this conference?” or “What’s your connection with the host?”
We also heard about the power of storytelling. People love hearing and telling stories! Look and listen for cues that could spark a story-telling opportunity. How does the person know the host? Try: “You must have some great stories about that relationship?” Or perhaps there’s a story behind one of their possessions – like a unique bag or the colour of their clothing. Try: “There must be a story behind that yellow bag you’re carrying?”
Is it just me, or is the advice about “breathing” everywhere these days? I’m not talking about yoga class. Breathing oxygenates our blood, improves the sound of our voice, and helps us think more clearly.
So, take a slow, deep breathe while the other person is answering the question you just asked. As you are expanding your chest to breathe, you might want to think about (C) – Confidence.
C. act Confident
People want to communicate with confident people. Confident people are open and positive, with both their words and their body language.
Be open. Sit or stand up straight. Uncross your legs and unfold your arms. Take up lots of space. Face the person who is talking. Don’t hide your hands – keep them in plain view on the table.
Be positive. Smile. And not just with your lips. Make direct eye contact and smile with your eyes. Nod in agreement and mirror the person with whom you are conversing.
Here’s a little secret about confidence: if you ACT confident, you will become more confident. Just by breathing, taking up space, and smiling, your body and your brain will start to internalize and exude confidence.
D. no Distractions – be mindful
Once you’ve made it through A-B-C (Ask Q, Breathe, Confidence), ask yourself: why am I here? What do I want?
This is less about being opportunistic, and more about being engaged or focused on the opportunities inherent in this interaction. This is about reinforcing your personal brand. This is about being mindful. For example, when I am enjoying a bookclub meeting, I can also be conscious of the opportunity to re-connect with cherished girlfriends. When I am eating dinner with my family, I am mindful of the opportunity to listen to what’s going on in my kids’ lives.
We all need to put our phones away and be present. Focus.
When I was at the Ensemble conference last week, I was mindful of my objective of networking on behalf of Talk About Talk. After (A) Asking people what their connection was to the conference, they then asked me the same. This was a great opportunity for me to tell people about Talk About Talk. “I just interviewed Baron Manett as a guest expert for my podcast, called Talk About Talk…”
(Yes, I handed out business cards and connected with conference speakers and attendees on social media – right there and then! I met some fantastic folks, including at least one future guest expert and a future collaborator….)
E. use your Ears – listen
Last, but not least, and related to everything above (A-B-C-D): use your Ears. Listen.
Listening is a lot more than just waiting for your turn to say something. Several of the past Talk About Talk guest experts mentioned that listening skills, truly focusing on what others have to say, is a critical communication skill. I remember when I was interviewing for a job after my undergraduate degree, one of the career counsellors said that “recruiters tend to prefer candidates who ask good Qs and who spend less time talking and more time listening.”
In the words of Aaron Burr, who was giving advice to Alexander Hamilton in the famous broadway show, “Talk less, smile more.” ?
Got it? “A-B-C-D-E”
I encourage you to take a moment to memorize these:
For me, the ABCDEs of Table Talk has worked like magic. In retrospect, I wonder if the ABCDE’s gave me some confidence, like a secret tool that I had in my mind, to keep me from feeling nervous or awkward.
I hope the “ABCDE’s of Table Talk” inspires and enables you too! I would love ❤️to hear what you think, particularly if you had a chance to try them – did they work for you? Please email me or post on one of the Talk About Talk social media pages.
As always, I encourage you to forward this email or send this link to your friends and colleagues who may also be interested in learning about how to become a more confident communicator. THANK YOU very much!
Have a great week.
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Founder & Chief Talker – Talk About Talk Inc.
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