The Art of Conversation

Whether you’re an extrovert or a shrinking violet, meeting people for the first time can be a daunting experience.  Especially if you’re in a room full of people who all seem to know each other and the pressure is on to make a compelling and incisive contribution to the conversation.  Most senior managers, however, have faced that challenge head on time and time again and think little of it….. and yet, confronted with social media, so many who find communication a breeze in the real world are keen to avoid any foray into the virtual world. Having used social media as an essential business tool for most of my professional life I have often been perplexed by this and asked a social media-phobe client where the problem lies. His issue, he said, was that once you’ve said something online, it’s out there for everyone to read and it could come back to bite you.

Fair enough.  Nobody wants to look a fool, especially not to a global audience of who knows how many million.  But my next question in response to that answer is this: why would you worry that you would say something untoward in the virtual world when you manage to conduct yourself with intelligence and professionalism every day of your working life?

The problem is that those who have not used social media throughout their careers see it very much as a different world with its own, ambiguous set of rules.  In fact, the art of conversation online is the same as it is offline – as long as you conduct yourself with integrity, never say anything you wouldn’t want repeated and remain aware that you could be overheard, you cannot go far wrong.

For me, succeeding in making social media a valuable business tool is all about manners. Social media channels provide a forum for dialogue, not a soap box for your pet subject.  The only risk of social media embarrassment comes from forgetting the social niceties you’d expect to need in the real world so it’s important to listen as well as talk, show an interest in others, share information, be discreet and factor in polite small talk.

If you follow those rules of thumb, social media ceases to become a minefield to negotiate and becomes a world of possibilities.