“How are you?” I asked Mariners third baseman Adam Kennedy.
“Fine. And you?” He replied.
“I’m doing pretty well. Did you take advantage of the sunshine today?” I continued.
“Yep. Walked to a place for lunch and then to the ballpark.” Kennedy responded.
And then there was nothing but awkward silence. I stood there for a moment expecting him to offer up a few more details on his day, but none came.
I wasn’t surprised at the outcome, I was, however, frustrated at my approach. I make it a point to have casual conversations with the players and coaches that I cover on a regular basis but it’s always smarter to make a plan before engaging in those exchanges.
Here’s why – men and women seek different outcomes in a conversation. For many women, the simple act of talking to someone is beneficial because it allows them to feel connected. That’s why a woman tends to share offer up several details of her day. The more details the greater the connection. When talking to some of my female colleagues the aforementioned conversation works perfectly and leads to a much longer exchange.
Most men however value information over connection and intimacy in a conversation. Men don’t see the need to share extraneous details of their day because it’s not information they prize. You can see how that played out in my conversation with Adam Kennedy.
If you really want to have a productive conversation with someone you need to make a plan. Have a clear goal of what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to get to that point. In my case, the goal is to establish rapport and build relationships that allow me to ask better questions during interviews and provide viewers and fans with better information. The reason for your conversation might be to establish a better work environment that leads to more productivity and efficiency.
A few days after the dead-end conversation with Kennedy, I had the opportunity to try it again, but this time I based the conversation on a piece of information that interested him – NBA.
“You’re a big basketball fan. What’s going to happen if the NBA doesn’t get a new deal in place by Thursday?” I asked.
“Is that the deadline for the lockout? I don’t know, but it seems like they got a little time to figure it out before the season starts. The NFL needs to get theirs done first.” Kennedy responded.
“True,“ I said. “But I think the NFL is a lot closer to working something out than the NBA. I think those guys are pretty far apart.”
“Can you imagine what would happen if we didn’t have football or basketball to watch this season? That would be awful.” Kennedy said.
See the difference in the conversation, the information exchanged and the opportunity to build rapport? Doing my homework (knowing that he was an NBA fan) and providing an opportunity for him to talk about his interests away from work (in his case, playing baseball) led to a more productive conversation. After we spent a couple brief moments talking about the NBA we talked about the lineup changes that day and I was able to get information to use in the broadcast that night.
A successful conversation looks different in various settings, but there’s no question that your ability to identify the difference between men and women in conversation and plan accordingly will help you reach your goals.
Jen Mueller is the Founder and CEO of Talk Sporty to Me. She’s available to speak for keynotes, presentations and workshops. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. She also developed a line of popular greeting cards as another way to build rapport. They are available on her website http://www.talksportytome.com
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