This blog is about human to human interactions and emotions—you know, the kind of interactions that those of us within the Customer Experience discipline profess to know the most about and have spent the most time mastering the art of conversation.  So, let’s begin with a definition to get us all grounded.

Wikipedia: Conversation is an interactive communication between two or more people. That’s a straightforward concept. However, they also go on to say that no generally accepted definition of conversation exists, beyond the fact that a conversation involves at least two people talking together and it typically it occurs in spoken communication, as written exchanges are usually not referred to as conversations. Functional conversation is designed to convey information in order to help achieve an individual or group goal.

Hence, within our role as customer experience professionals, we hold a conversation and the resulting communication in the highest order of the many skills we possess and exemplify.  David Gurteen is an independent Knowledge Management consultant, speaker, and facilitator who helps people to share their knowledge and learn from one another to innovate and to work together effectively to make a difference.  In an online book, David points to a conversation as an immensely powerful and adaptable technology that can be used purposefully to achieve many different objectives and he provides the following examples.

Improve understanding Build relationships Transform leadership
Stimulate action Generate ideas Surface opportunities
Explore possibilities Reveal hidden problems Solve problems
Break down departmental silos Identify risks Share knowledge
Improve decision-making Give people a voice Improve engagement

As I look at this list and reflect upon my prior corporate experience as a Manager of CX, I can identify with every single one of them.  And they all are dependent upon effective and successful conversation.  I was actively involved with every one of these objectives within my CX role and conversation was the cornerstone of my success, although I will admit to many challenges and roadblocks along the path.  However, this is what the career of a CX professional involves and that is by no means limited to what David has shared with us here.  But there is a common danger as he points out and that’s both the power and potential of conversation are often overlooked.  A few examples may help.

  • If you have just given a presentation – have a conversation with someone you know and trust to gain feedback.
  • If you wish to share knowledge on a topic – bring people together to have a conversation about their experiences.
  • If you are about to start a new project – have a conversation with a project leader, who has run similar projects in the past.
  • If you want to learn from a previous project – convene the team and encourage a conversation about the lessons generated.

These aren’t earthshattering or novel suggestions.  They are simple enough to think of as common sense.  Conversation can be as good as the imagination allows. But for conversations to be powerful they must be meaningful.  Think about the last time you had a real and meaningful conversation.  Did you feel that you were part of it?  We’re so wrapped up in meetings and chats and social media that really don’t give any of us much of a chance to listen. Listening itself is a critical communication and conversational skill that we often ignore, instead thinking only about what we want to say next.  Effective communication is a learned skill.

Inc. Magazine published an interesting article titled 7 Subtle Conversational Habits of Powerful People written by Jason Demers, Founder, and CEO of AudienceBloom, LLC.  In the article, Jason says, “If you’re out to make a powerful impression and garner more respect and admiration in a professional environment, the way you present yourself through conversation is vitally important. Consciously or unconsciously, powerful people tend to adopt and use these seven habits, all of which lead to a more powerful, memorable presence.” 

  1. They have something worth saying. First, they almost always seem to have something worth saying. This isn’t because powerful people naturally have more interesting things to say than the average person; it’s because when they think of something to say, they hold onto it, think critically about whether it’s worth saying, and if it isn’t, they let it go. Not every thought that enters your head is a valuable contribution to the conversation, and not every piece of small talk is worth going through. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say, don’t worry–just wait until you do.
  2. They aren’t afraid of silence. Effective speakers and powerful conversationalists understand that there’s more power in silence than there are in empty words. Instead of trying to fill empty space in the conversation with more sentences, or filler words like “um” and “uh,” they simply stop speaking. The extra pauses in the conversation give both participants time to think carefully about what’s happening. It makes your sentences seem more thoughtful and put together–even if they’re not. If you get to a point in the conversation where neither party has anything to add, don’t be the one who rushes to fill the silence. Wait, allow the silence to work for you, and jump back in only when you’re ready.
  3. They don’t dominate the conversation. Instead of talking all about themselves, powerful people tend to let other people do the talking. They ask meaningful questions about the other party’s life, ideas, and progress. This is more than just being polite–talking about yourself triggers a pleasure sensation in the brain, so when a powerful person gets another participant to talk about himself, that second participant instantly becomes more invested and walks away feeling more attached and rewarded by the experience. Contribute to the conversation on your own, but don’t forget to give the other person plenty of time to talk.
  4. They don’t argue. They never argue directly. Direct forms of arguing like “that’s wrong,” or even “I disagree” instantly make you the antagonist in a conversation and can make you seem pettier or less of a positive contributor. Instead of arguing, present a different opinion. Offering a phrase like “I can see your point, but there’s another perspective here” or “I once read something that suggests otherwise” allows you to express your opinion, but in a way that deflects the direct counterpoint to another source. In the end, it makes you seem smart for bringing it up but never diminishes your authority or maturity.
  5. They avoid buzzwords, clichés, and euphemisms. Buzzwords, cliché, and euphemisms are all different types of words and phrases, but they all share a commonality; they don’t carry meaning by themselves. Buzzwords and cliché are overdone, and because of that, they lose meaning over time. Using them in a conversation subtly implies that you aren’t clever enough to think of the words to describe what you mean. Euphemisms are often meant to be tactful but are often done in a way that intentionally obscures a speaker’s true intention. In short, it makes you seem overly slick or deceptive. Try to speak your thoughts as clearly and as directly as possible.
  6. They use simple words. The next time you listen to a powerful conversationalist, pay careful attention to how many big words they use. Chances are, they won’t use many. Those long, complicated, highly specific terms may look great in writing, and they may work for specific purposes, but in the context of the conversation, they might confuse your audience. Even if they don’t, they can make you seem pretentious or make you seem like you’re showing off. Instead, powerful communicators rely on simple, few-syllable words to express themselves.
  7. They have varied, dynamic intonation. Any repetitive patterns of intonation instantly diminish the power of a conversation. For example, if you speak to someone in a low monotone with no differentiation, you’ll seem dull and uninteresting. If you have a habit of adding an upward inflection to the end of your sentences, you might seem immature or foolish. Instead, the most powerful speakers use a wide variety of different tones and inflections to add a layer of emotional expression to their words. It captivates an audience and makes you seem more in control of your speech.

Hopefully, some or all these 7 habits are part of your veritable CX kit bag but, if not, then it might be time to pay closer attention and raise your professional conversational skills.

As a musician as well as a CX professional, I’m often struck by sets of lyrics and this topic reminded me of a song written by the late Pete Ham of the British group Badfinger entitled Perfection. That there is no real perfection was his main point but, as the song goes, successful conversation will take you very far.  May your conversations be not perfect but may they be more successful and take you very far.


There is no real perfection – There’ll be no perfect day – Just love is our connection – The truth in what we say

There’s no good revolution – Just power changing hands – There is no straight solution – Except to understand

So, listen to my song of life – You don’t need a gun or a knife – Successful conversation will take you very far

There is no real perfection – There’ll be no perfect man – Just peace is our connection – Forgiving all we can

There’s no good kind of killing – Just power taking life – It’s all good blood that’s spilling – To make a bigger knife

So, listen to my song of life – You don’t need a gun or a knife – Successful conversation will take you very far

Successful conversation will take you very far – Successful conversation will take you very far


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Karl Sharicz – Founder, CEO – HorizonCX, LLC. | August 2020

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