The art of conversation


Has this ever happened to you? You’re sitting at the coffee shop, enjoying a coffee or tea. Maybe you’re reading a book, or trying to get some work done. The person sitting across the table from you clearly wants to talk… a lot.

This happened to me the other day. Now, I’m fine chatting it up with someone I don’t know. But this man didn’t want a conversation. He wanted to spew out a continual diatribe of negative opinions on anything and everything. Plus, he thought he was hilariously funny. He didn’t make eye contact and didn’t let me get a word in edgewise. All I wanted to do was get up and leave.

It reminded me of how many nonprofit organizations communicate with their donors. There’s this tendency to go on and on about themselves… how great the organization is and what wonderful work they do, or about how many problems they have.

What they usually fail to do, or fail to do enough, is to really communicate with their donors, or potential donors. To get to know them. To speak to them as real people, with real feelings and issues of their own.

The same is true for many business communications as well.

Take a minute to look at your own communication pieces. Do you do this? If so, try to think of your communication materials as conversations. A good conversation has a give and take. A bit about you, a bit about me. You ask questions, you listen to the answers. You tell me how your day is going, then you ask how my day is.

Think of your last conversation with a good friend. You probably felt better after having it. Not like you needed to have a long hot shower, which is how I felt the other morning, after I finally managed to switch tables!

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