Office conversations are an often-overlooked aspect of professional communication. Though they might seem casual and innocuous, these short chats go a long way in building strong working relationships. By changing the way you speak to colleagues, you can add meaning to conversations and create a more collaborative environment.
Ask More Questions
In a competitive work environment, office conversations can include a great deal of self-promotion or a focus on the speaker's goals. Self-advocacy is important, but it shouldn't be the center of every discussion. Add depth to your conversations by asking more questions. If a co-worker mentions a successful project, ask how the creative process unfolded. If he notes that he's sore from a weekend triathlon, ask about the training process. The simple act of asking questions lets the listener know that you're paying attention and makes you seem more empathetic. It also turns a surface-level conversation into a true exchange of ideas and information, which results in intellectual stimulation and a stronger bond.
Your colleagues are a wealth of information gained from years of education and unique experiences. Take advantage of their collective wisdom by asking for opinions during office conversations. Make the other person's job easier with specific requests, such as, "I just finished the layout for this website. Do you think the navigation options are clear?" Although it can be intimidating to make yourself vulnerable, everyone wins: you get useful information, and your colleagues feel valued and respected.
Remember Key Points
Make your co-workers feel special during office conversations by remembering and mentioning key information. If you know the person is in the middle of a challenging project, ask how it's going. If the person mentioned an exciting personal event during your last conversation, bring it up a few days later. This process makes co-workers feel noticed and important, which automatically creates a friendlier atmosphere in the office.
Be Aware of Taboo Subjects
As you build relationships with colleagues, it's natural to veer from professional communication to non-work topics during office conversations. That's fine, as long as you're sensitive to potentially taboo subjects such as religion and politics. It's one thing when both parties can keep the conversation on a respectful, intellectual level — but keep in mind that a single offhand comment about a political candidate or a hot-button social issue can immediately label you in a specific way. If the other person feels strongly about the subject, it can damage your relationship. When it comes to emotionally loaded topics, proceed with extreme caution, and always respect opposing viewpoints.
With the right strategies, you can take office conversations from surface-level chats to meaningful discussions. Over time, these conversations can lead to positive and powerful relationships that transform your working life.
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