Increase Your Influence – By Improving Conversational Awareness

Posted on: April 11th, 2018 by Jen Mueller

A lot of well-meaning people give a lot of well-intended advice, especially when it comes to improving business communication skills, but there’s often a missing component.

For example, I recently heard a student explain how her doctoral studies centered around her finding that people who ask questions are more interesting.

I’ll admit my initial reaction was not very gracious. I had both a “No shit Sherlock” moment and a, “You’re wrong” moment. Then I realized that in the context of her life, and the 20-something years she had experienced, this was a revolutionary way for her to approach conversations.

Here’s the bigger problem – she’s wrong as much as she’s right.

To be fair, she shared very little of her findings on the short podcast clip I heard, so I don’t have the whole story, but the information that was being amplified by the host and the program was this: It doesn’t hurt to ask more questions.

Except that it does. As a sports broadcaster I ask questions for a living. As an Expert Talker (formerly known as someone who “talks too much.”) I engage in thousands of conversations a week.

It’s a well-intentioned piece of advice, but if you follow it in business situations people will call you the opposite of interesting. They’ll call you unprepared, unimpressive and awkward.

There are stupid questions. There are bad times to ask questions. There are the wrong questions to ask.

Bad questions can derail conversations and reflect poorly on you. You need to be able to read to the room and the situation.

Demonstrate that you’ve got conversational awareness to approach the conversation the right way, at the right time. Click To TweetYes, it takes skill and emotional intelligence, but in the end it’s another way to build relationships and demonstrate that you have leadership potential.

Take a look at the video for a few tips from my latest book The Influential Conversationalist.


Chapter 3 of The Influential Conversationalist provides ways to increase your self-awareness in conversations. You’ll also learn how getting people on the same page, reading the situation and directing conversations in the way they need to go builds rapport that ends up providing a measure of grace when conversations don’t go as planned.

Jen Mueller is a rock star keynote speaker and the author of The Influential Conversationalist. She offers unique take on business communication and leadership thanks to nearly two decades spent inside professional locker rooms. She currently serves as the sideline radio reporter for the Seattle Seahawks and is a member of the Seattle Mariners television broadcast team.

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