What is a meaningful conversation?

Over the past few months, Brewer Morris has held a collection of events which have been designed to develop and discuss the non-technical skill set for tax professionals. The two questions that have arisen from these events when talking within my network are: ‘what is a meaningful conversation?' and 'how do I have one?'

"A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue"

This quote, despite not being about working life is still relevant. Having a meaningful conversation is all to do with being efficient with your time and gaining the most from your conversations.

From reading various articles and listening to several TED talks on this topic, it’s becoming apparent to me that working professionals can benefit from refining their approach to conversations and taking the time to think about the various elements needed in order to achieve a meaningful conversation. Some of the more ‘obvious’, but sometimes overlooked, points are:

  • Understand what you want to achieve
  • Be specific and set yourself an agenda – this adds more structure and weight to the conversation. This in turn enables you to;
  • Take control of the conversation, which leads to;
  • Instilling confidence in your counterpart
  • Listen properly (i.e. do not think about what you are going to say next whilst the other party is talking)
  • Ask questions, demonstrate engagement
  • Be empathetic to your counterpart
  • One other point to make (which can make some feel uncomfortable practising) is voice projection and body language. - You need to be self-aware and understand how your voice and also body language is being perceived by your counterpart, whether that be internally with your peers or externally with your clients

If your head is saying ‘I want that promotion’ but your voice projection is lacking enthusiasm, this could be the failure of your conversations.

So how do you know if a conversation has been meaningful? Everyone can nod their head and agree when you’re talking, but how do you know your intended message has truly been understood. It's simple, you follow up. This does take a little extra effort, but by doing this, you will soon realise whether your conversation has been effective or not.

How to have a meaningful conversation is an open-ended question, as it’s certainly open to interpretation depending on the environment and culture you are in. However, there are some common themes that can be carried through.

I would really like to hear what you think about this topic and any advice/tips on how to have a meaningful conversation. Please feel free to contact me on kerrymclaughlin@brewermorris.com