As I contemplated a career change a few years ago, I figured the writing and editing I had done as a newspaper journalist would be valued transferable skills no matter where I landed. As a consultant, teacher, author and blogger, they have come in handy almost every day. But I had an insight about these skills while working with clients last week — the rules of good writing can apply to managing authentic conversations as well.
Writers are often advised to consider their stories through these three lenses:
- Who cares?
- Show me, don’t tell me
- Less is more
In conversations about how people will work together, it’s important to let them know why they should care about what you have to offer. How does what you offer connect to the results they care about and those needed by the enterprise? It’s not enough to talk about what you bring to the table unless it’s something that will fulfill the others’ needs and wants. How will what you offer help someone improve their results?
Show me, don’t tell me.
Being specific about what you want from a coworker or client is essential to good consulting and building effective working relationships. When you say you want to develop a strong partnership, how will you both “see it” when the partnership is working well? If it’s important to “keep the lines of communication open” does that mean a weekly face-to-face meeting or daily briefings via email? When you say you will be “responsive,” does that mean returning emails and phone calls within the working day or within 24 hours? Use your words to paint a detailed picture of the ideal scenario.
Less is more.
Talking more than is necessary can be a distracting and time-wasting trap. Preparing for conversations will help, especially in a high-stress, high-stakes circumstance. Before you talk, get clear about a few essential points to be made, and practice stating them succinctly. Remember that silence can be your friend — don’t be in a rush to fill it.