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The Game-Changer in How We Conduct a Business Conversation


The Game-Changer in How We Conduct a Business Conversation

It sounds a bit clinical, I know. But it’s a game-changer in how we conduct a business conversation.

Our talk ratio.

It quantifies how much you or I talk, how much the other person talks in a conversation. Forget about the substance of the conversation, for a moment (mind you, I believe in substance!!!). Let’s keep it basic. In a conversation, what percentage of the time do you talk, what percentage of the time does the other person talk?

If you have an 80/20 ratio, you likely talk too much.

If you have a 20/80 ratio, you likely talk too little.

But it depends entirely on the other person and the situation! you protest. It does – but not quite as much as you think!

We tend to fall into predictable conversation rhythms, regardless of the conversation we’re in. We shout it depends, but we still don’t adjust to the it-depends-variable.

Our ratios, as much as the specifics of what we say, define the quality of a conversation.

An example from my work with senior executives.

Every Senior Leader I support has standing meetings with her or his direct reports. When I ask my leader to identify the typical talk ratio in such a meeting, we often end up with an 80/20. My executive talks 80% of the time, the direct report 20% of the time.

The moment we put it in ratio terms, we instantly realize that this is probably not the best ratio for this or any conversation.

Flip it to 20/80, and a whole other conversation ensues. The individual who reports to you will leave the conversation more satisfied, even if not every concern was addressed. She has had the conversation she needed, not the conversation you pre-determined for her. He feels heard and hopefully uplifted by the conversation. S/he is hopefully motivated to go out and perform well for you.

There is no perfect ratio. We’re not aiming for 50/50. Because it DOES depend.

The goal is to notice our ratios. And decide if they get us the outcomes we desire.

Related: The ONE Surefire Way to Build INFLUENCE

Position power and expertise power are the 2 big variables in any conversation. Theirs and ours.

If you lead with lots of position and expertise power, you will quickly find yourself in a 90/10 conversation. Yes, you talk a lot. If you’re the CEO of the company, you will be indulged. This ratio is also unlikely to get you the deep commitment you desire from folks. Because you have plain talked too much.

If your conversation partner has lots of position and expertise power, it’s easy for you to vanish. Suddenly you’re in a 10/90 conversation. 10% you, 90% them. Yes, it is good etiquette to defer to the power bases of your conversation partner – and chances are, you’re also not adding much value to this conversation!

Notice your talk ratios. They’re as important as the substance of what you say.

The moment you consciously adjust your ratios, you enhance your personal impact.

It’s that simple. Go and experiment. You’ll be amazed.

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