Likely, the same thing that happens when someone trained as a runner suddenly has to hop on a bike - he’s going to be a little wobbly. Once he gets used to the new environment, he can adapt. But there’s a good chance he might fall down before he gets there. Knowing the key aspects of effective bike riding (balance, keep two hands on the handlebars, look ahead so you know where you’re going) will help.
In the same way, someone who does not have to talk to people much during the day might be pretty wobbly at first both on the phone and in person. Knowing the key aspects of effective verbal communication can help you ride away with the results you want from every out loud conversation. What are those key aspects? Balance, keep two hands on the handlebars, and look ahead so you know where you’re going.
Conversation is a balancing act. Talk. Listen. Talk. Listen. My grandmother said God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: talk, listen, listen, talk, listen, listen. The point is, don’t try to dominate a conversation. Even if your point is important and correct, realize that the person you’re communicating with likely has a point, too, and it might be correct. Sometimes, asking questions is more effective than just babbling. Keep a good balance.
Conversation requires your attention. Keep two hands on the handlebars – keep your mind engaged in the conversation. With email, you have time to read and then respond. With real-time verbal conversation, you have to listen and think at the same time. This is especially difficult in our ADD culture. We want to jump around and come back to something later. In conversation, it’s important to stay focused on the conversation itself. If you lose track, if your mind wanders, try repeating what the other person just said, either in your mind or aloud, to keep yourself focused on the conversation.
Why talk, anyway? Before you get on the conversation bike, check in on why you are having the conversation. Do you need information? Do you want to describe your products? Do you want someone to change a behavior? Or maybe you just want to say hello. Whatever your purpose, keep it in mind. Effective communicators put the agenda first. For example, “Hi, I’m calling to tell you about my products, but first, how’s your Grandpa doing after that surgery?” Because the person you are speaking with talks to people only as often as you do, they might appreciate knowing why you chose to call instead of just sending an email.
Even as it gets pushed aside, verbal communication has an important role in business today. Remember the rules, and practice occasionally, so you’ll be up to speed when someone wants to hear you speak.