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.

Hire Jen to speak at your next conference or event. Send her an email:

Give Yourself a Sporting Chance

Posted on: April 9th, 2018 by Jen Mueller

Avoid a “case of the Mondays” by looking at each conversation today, and the rest of the week, as an opportunity to initiate new business. It could come in the form of a new business relationship, stronger rapport with the people you already do business with or a chance to talk about a new idea that impacts your business.

Work is a grind. Monday is the epitome of the grind. It’s also the start of all the opportunities ahead of you this week.

Look at things a little differently and you’ll get different outcomes, especially when you use these sports small talk topics to spark conversation.

By the way, don’t limit your sports fandom to talking about stats and scores. There’s so much more to fandom and ways to make it work for you. Take a look:

If you’d like to get these Sports #ConvoStarters delivered right to your inbox, sign up for weekly #ConvoStarters and you’ll be in-the-know by 7am ever Monday.

Sports Watch and Talk: 1-on-1 Interactions

Posted on: April 4th, 2018 by Jen Mueller

I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again – there’s more to sports talk than sports itself. If you’re only paying attention to, or talking about, the final score or stats you’re not taking full advantage of sports fandom.

When you watch sports, it’s not just about what you’re seeing on the field or court.

Athletes deal with the same challenges everyone else faces in their careers. Their high-profile jobs mean they’re regularly on TV, radio and social media. Yes, that means you’re entertained, but there’s so much more to take away from those interactions.

In my latest book The Influential Conversationalist I provide a series of suggestions on how to watch games with an eye toward building stronger business relationships and developing better communication skills.

(By the way, when I say sports, I mean all sports. As in any sport you want to watch – your kid’s game, the rec league games you participate in, the “non-traditional” sports that don’t get as much coverage on TV. Sports isn’t limited to “The Big 4” of football, basketball baseball and hockey.)

Sports Watch and Talk

Spend five minutes watching a game or sporting event. Pay attention to how many conversations or one-on-one interactions take place during that time. You’ll probably notice none of the conversations are particularly long. There simply isn’t time during the middle of an event. You’ll also notice there’s a different intent behind each interaction and even though they are short, a lot gets done. Here are a few examples of what you might see:

  • A player congratulating a teammate
  • A coach talking to an official for clarification on a call
  • A manager calling down to the bullpen for a reliever
  • A quarterback barking out directions at the line of scrimmage
  • A coach calling a timeout to get everyone on the same page
  • A player bantering with an opponent because they used to be teammates
  • A golfer talking strategy with the caddy
  • A swimmer getting a last-minute pep talk from a coach

You could be having the same kinds of conversations with the people you work with. In fact, you should be having similar conversations.

Take Action and Start Talking

This week, engage in three conversations (not via text, email or social media, but actual conversations) using one or more of the examples you saw in a sporting event. If face to face interactions aren’t comfortable for you, remember these aren’t long drawn out monologues. These interactions can be as short as saying, “Great job in that meeting!” to a colleague or asking a manager for clarification on an email you received.

You already have talent. Make sure you’ve got the conversation skills to match. Pick up your copy of The Influential Conversationalist today.

Jen Mueller is a rockstar keynote presenter and a TV and radio sports broadcaster. She is also the author of three books including The Influential Conversationalist. Her unique take on communication and leadership was developed over nearly two decades spent inside sports locker rooms. Hire Jen to speak at your next conference or participate in your corporate training session. 

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