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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

The art of conversing to get ahead

It comes as no surprise to my friends and family that I was voted Most Likely To Never Stop Talking. But I don’t look at what I do as simply “talking” — I look at it as “conversing.” “Talking,” is the rattling off of prepared points or gossip. “Conversing” is intriguing, it’s investigative, it’s discussing; it’s sharing information and ideas with each other, which empowers everyone in the conversation.

Let’s face it — if we can’t converse in the workplace or at the restaurant, we’re not going to find ourselves climbing any corporate ladders or even going out on a second date. These are some key conversational No-No’s. Because whether you’re at a “social” event or professional conference, you’re on the virtual clock. Although your job may be 9 to 5, your career is 24/7, and as social as any event may appear, it’s still business.


1. Compliments
The color brown never looks good on anyone’s nose. You can tell when people are sucking up to you, and you can be sure that they can tell when you’re sucking up to them. Keep it simple, compliment on the obvious —such as a new dress or tie and then say why you like it.  Stick with a few compliments in a conversation; otherwise compliments lose their charm.

2. Me Too

Slipping into the automatic “me too” response can be easy, especially when we’re bored. It’s also a way of adding something to the conversation when we either aren’t listening or are unfamiliar with the subject. If you agree with someone on an issue or topic, increase your credibility by stating why rather than just saying, “me too.”

3. Bad Breath
Anyone can suffer from the garlic chicken satay, but there’s absolutely no bigger conversation killer than bad breath. You don’t have to carry a box of Tic Tacs in your handbag (so everyone knows where you are by that jingling sound). Have a few loose mints in your pocket and use them discreetly, when needed. Remember too, these are good things to share, so if someone asks you for one, be polite and give the minty goodness.

4. Small Spaces

Personal space is another consideration when trying to grab the attention of others. Captivating your audience is not the same as cornering a couple of office mates so they can’t escape. Be respectful of everyone’s personal space. Give them at least a foot.

5. Lack of Eye Contact

Keep it! Nothing is worse than trying to have a conversation with someone who’s constantly looking around at everything but you. You have no choice but to think they’re searching for someone better to talk to. Learn from others’ annoying habits and keep your eyes in the conversation.

6. Gestures

Gestures are great — as long as you’re not making them through your car window at 70 mph. Hand gestures can reinforce your idea and peak others’ interest. Just be sure not to point. Relax your hands, make open gestures and keep them in your space. Use them but control them — there’s a fine line between gesturing and flapping like a bird.

7. Scowling

Even if you aren’t a warm person, more people will be inclined to interact with you if you smile and look friendly. Remember, misery invites misery. Don’t be a part of the bitter circle; no movers and shakers will want to join a negative bunch.

8. Fidgeting
Unless you’re the only one sitting down and there’s a bright light overhead, there’s no reason to fidget. This includes bouncing your knee, playing with your hair, licking your lips, biting your nails — you get the point. These behaviors only make you appear nervous and send the wrong signals.

9. Cursing

When have you ever used an Andrew Dice Clay monologue to impress your boss? It’s amazing how many people use curse words in the most inappropriate ways. Screen yourself and filter your mouth. If you want to strengthen your statement, do it with substance, not slang.

10. Gossip

So the office gossip cornered you in the middle of the event — no matter how much you may want to hear the juicy news, do not stay and listen — and do not share any information. Just call your friends in the mailroom the next day — they’re the ones who know everything!

11. Knowing It All
Nobody knows it all so don’t try to act like you do. Recall the guy in your class you never liked — the Know It All? Take a lesson from him and ask questions to those in your conversation when you’re lacking information. People love to feel like experts, why not let them?

So, get out there and be voted the best conversationalist. If you can converse well, it will pay off in raises, promotions, friends, a date or maybe even a mate.

Laura Schwartz is the author of Eat, Drink & Succeed and is a professional speaker who presents to corporations and organizations around the world. She was the White House director of events for the Clinton Administration and is proud of her involvement as a keynote speaker with Small Market Meetings and the Group Travel Family. Laura Schwartz and her company, White House Strategies, is based in Chicago.