I love having conversations but I don’t know how to end them. I belong to those group of individuals who abruptly and awkwardly end conversations. Once I get my point across and the listener does so as well, I just stare into space like there’s some greek god who takes over conversations as soon as human stop talking, and swirl some dust or smoke that automates our moving on. See what I did there? I strived hard to end that sentence.

I started to wonder,

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Or I might just hate saying goodbye. And this was also true for me as I started working. The corporate world is so different from your usual comfortable and friendly space. Though you might be friends with colleagues and superiors, you always want to put your best foot forward because everything is at stake — your reputation, integrity and allegiance. The way you talk matters a lot but how you carry on a conversation matters more.

I found out that once an idea or a question pops up in my head, I just get up, go meet whoever it is I can have the conversation with; have a back and forth with the individual and dash off or even worse, just open my mouth and put words in the atmosphere. I knew this wasn’t good for my brand. I want to be perceived as formal, civil and comported and I really want to be.

So, I devised a SMART process for having conversations in the office — yeah the already established and effective acronym:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely!

Before I engage someone in a conversation, I plan for it even if it’s just a few minute conversation about a scene from a movie or my opinion about the ending of a book.

S: I get specific. Why do I want to involve in this conversation? I ask the questions that matter and I discovered that this helps me stir the conversation in the direction that I want. I even imagine that the person might go off course and arrange a system that brings the person back to the conversation I want to have. This little habit makes me seem like a mature listener (which I know I am terrible at. This process has helped my listening habit) so, until the person is done answering my question or shedding light in my grey areas, I don’t cut them in. I keep my eyes on them, nod or make some sounds I don’t even know I could make listening to a person.

Measurable: How will I know it meets my expectations? What should be the highlights of the conversations that answers my questions or fuels my preconceived ideas. This is a mini checklist that once they are all checked, I can boldly shake hands and say “This conversation is over. Have a good one.”

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Achievable: Can this person answer my questions? Can they provide solutions or ideas that will lead in the direction of getting my issues or challenges resolved? This is always a tricky one as people aren’t always what they seem. I usually do a little bit of research on their skills, abilties, competencies, natural proclivities, and their interests. This research helps me segment my colleagues or superiors into various ‘genre’. I know who to go to for what and I know that I will be intellectually stimulated. There are some folks who don’t have a particular genre because they are multi skilled or are just very knowledgeable and resourceful, I put these folks in my High Profile list and they got there by merits gotten from previous conversations and results.

Relevant: Should this conversation be a dialogue? What will be the impact of this conversation I am about to engage in? Is it relevant to the work at hand, the priority goal we are trying to achieve or the project we’re working on? If I answer no to all these, I pen the conversation and schedule it for a future date. This is important because most conversations in the office space doesn’t revolve around you, your ideals and intentions. The office space is a community where everyone needs to be facing the same direction to achieve those goals.

Timely: When do I have to have this conversation? I ask if it’s right time and right place to hold the conversation. I also plan for how long the conversation is going to take as I can’t spend my entire day talking.

After I do all these, I plan a Thank You note. I just jot my keywords in my notepad because those keywords are very important to people, especially if they provided value for your time.

These help me stir my conversations in the direction I want, help me set expectations and value people’s opinions and time.

I hope your awkward self or awkward conversationalist finds this article useful.



Adebola Williams |Africa’s Top Brand Storyteller

The crux of great writing isn’t when an action is taken but when transformation happens. I dabble in great writing and the occasional transformation.