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Trying to Build a Tribe? 10 Conversation Tips to Start

Social media tells you how important it is to build a tribe of likeminded people if you want to be more successful, happier, and healthier.

The trouble is, people don’t have the first inkling about how to do it.

What builds a tribe?

Many entrepreneurs believe all they have to do to “build a tribe” is to create an “ideal avatar” and offer it a lot of free stuff. So, they put their energy and tons of effort into creating lead magnets or free Kindle books because everybody says avatars love free stuff.

And corporate leaders who try to attract Millennials to their tribes are told to entice the younger set with chillax areas, free beer, beanbag chairs, and other “lifestyle benefits.”

But tribes are not built through lead magnets and office ping-pong.

In fact, these easy tactics are useless if they don’t spark the activity that’s at the cornerstone of a connected tribe: Conversation.

Whatever Happened to Striking Up Conversations?

According to an article in The Atlantic by Paul Barnwell, “Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach students.”

Conversation is also the biggest gap facing entrepreneurs and business leaders today, in my opinion. Conversational intelligence has atrophied under the stress of today’s harried pace.

Yes, the art of conversation may be a dying art form, but there’s still hope.

We can start practicing the art of conversation by thinking of our clients, customers, and young leaders as people first. They are not avatars (not sure which consultant came up with the one) or some hard to understand demographic.

Here are 10 Tips you can use to improve your conversations at work and in life.

1. Conversation is about Discovery: The tip of the iceberg is easy for all to see, as are other people’s behaviors. But, it’s what you don’t see under the surface that matters most, in icebergs and people. And thanks to today’s reactive pace, we’re quick to judge people, as well. As result, it’s easy to believe that conversation is something we do TO others. It’s not — in spite of our social media behavior. Conversation is something we do WITH others. It gives us the opportunity to make the invisible visible and to see the emotions, values, and beliefs below the water’s surface.

“It’s enjoyable to make things visible which are invisible” — Eric Cantona, Manchester United

2. Conversation is about being Focus: The best way to show you are paying attention is simply paying attention. It’s time to turn your device notifications off and be here now. Your undivided focus builds trust and allows for co-creation to start.

Focus not only helps enhance our conversations, it also helps our productivity. Watch Cal Newport, Ph.D., deliver a TEDx on Social Media and Productivity (13 minutes).

3. Conversation is about Agility: The agility of flow happens when we set aside personal agendas and stay curious. Agility is about being curious and asking questions for which we don’t have the answers. Open-ended questions that begin with why, what, how, when, and work best. Curiosity questions promote listening and create the space for trust to grow.

“I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein

4. Conversation is about Permission to be Wrong: It’s ok to be wrong. It’s also ok not to have every answer. I know that as leaders we believe that is a job requirement. But it isn’t. Conversational competence requires a willingness to be influenced, which means checking your ego, and accepting that someone else has a perspective worth hearing.

Listen to Kathryn Schultz’s take on what happens we get addicted to being right. Spoiler alert — the consequences are ugly. (2 minutes)

5. Conversation is about Perspective: Our worldviews help us feel safe in a complex world. Given the fear baiting being shared today, it’s easy to trust only our own perspectives. But that fuels our addiction to being right. With openness, we can build empathy by bringing different possibilities into focus. After all, we all have the ability to change when we point our eyes in a different direction.

During my TEDx, I share the value of perspective and the idea that We Go Where Our Eyes Go. Below, I share what happened in my “Last Bad Day recovery” and how my career changed after I shifted my perspective. (12 minutes)

6. Conversation is about Clarity: Healthy conversation requires details to ensure clarity, and to build trust and understanding. Directness, with a “power with” versus. “power over” intent is a conversational essential. Of course, too much detail is as challenging as too little clarity.

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” — Jim Rohn

7. Conversation is about Listening: Active listeners hear what is being said and what’s not being said. They know that body language and energy communicate just as much as words do. Active listening means listening to connect and understand versus. listening to reply.

“If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.” — A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

8. Conversation is about Exchange: Conversations that spark new possibilities often require debate. Yet, these types of conversations — the kind that sit on the edge between comfort and innovation — are the ones that create better tomorrows. The exchange of different perspectives can be challenging at times. It’s ok. It’s meant to be challenging. Lean into the conflict. Many people will take a step back and settle for good enough. A few will understand that anything worth having, like trust and success, requires effort and takes them closer to being their best.

9. Conversation is about Acknowledgment: Today there are more ways than ever to connect with others. Yet, record numbers of people admit to feeling isolated and alone. Acknowledgment lets others know that they have been heard and they’re not alone. Care, compassion and love build trust, and declare that “WE” matter more than “I” matter. Acknowledgement builds trust and connection, and displays that you are giving your full attention.

This is one of the best videos on the value of acknowledgment. It’s two minutes long and “not about the nail.” (You will get the reference once you watch it.) Husbands, boyfriends, and mansplainers, this one is for you.

10. Conversation is about Engagement:

Building strong tribes and work cultures take effort and practice. The first step is enhancing your communication competence.

To start building conversational competence and your tribe, contact me via email. I’m always open to a great conversation.

Click here to get my SlideShare on these 10 Tips and More.

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