I just returned from a conference of the College Savings Plan Network in Atlanta where I was reminded that, once again, no matter where you, or what the topic of the day is, it’s always all about communication.
First of all, being in Atlanta reminded me of how the south really has greetings down. If they know your first name, they put a Miss or Mr. in front of it. I loved being called Miss Betty. And, second, though this conference was about college savings plans, I found that every session dealt with some form of communication, regardless of whether the information was about updates, marketing, policies or administrative challenges.
One of my favorite sessions was facilitated by Fahlgren Mortine, a top Public Relations firm in the mid-west. The session was about learning how to work with the media. But, what I got out of it, was learning how to “bridge” conversations to move someone from where they want to be to where you want to go. In other words, bridging is all about how to take control of an interview, or conversation. So, while the information was designed to help you work better with the media, the transferability to every day conversations was pretty clear.
A communication bridge can be used to get from a question asked of you to the message that you want to get out. It can help you avoid getting trapped into saying something you didn’t mean to say.
For example, when you are asked a question that you don’t want to answer directly, or if you simply want to change the focus or topic of the conversation, you can use one of these communication bridging techniques:
1. Briefly answer the question, but quickly move to a message you’d like to give:
You know, I’m not sure about that. However, what I can tell you is…
2. Pose a new question and answer it yourself:
The real question here is “what are we doing about the problem?”
The heart of the matter really is “what we are doing about the problem?”
3. Redirect the conversation to what you want to talk about:
Let’s talk about something I am more familiar with…
4. Stop talking
Another effective way to change the focus is to just stop talking.
If you don’t have something that you want to say, be careful not to start talking just to fill space. Be thoughtful. And, don’t say something until you are ready to, even if it creates a bit of an uncomfortable gap.
I’ve already tried out some of these. They really work. Practice one the next time you feel yourself in a conversation you didn’t really want to be in!
Betty Lochner is the Owner of Cornerstone Coaching & Training. She specializes in personal and organizational transformation and is the author of Dancing with Strangers: Communication skills for transforming your life at work and at home.