Learning how to bridge conversations is learning how to move someone from where they want the conversation to be to where you want it to go.
Controlling the Conversation
When I travel away from home I’m reminded that no matter where you, or what the topic of the day is, getting around is all about controlling the conversation to get what you need.
For example, in many southern states, they have the important skill of “greeting people well” down. If they know your first name, they put a Miss or Mr. in front of it. It feels familiar and welcoming to be called “Miss Betty”. This is an example of an effective way to make a quick connection and build trust.
Using a Communication Bridge
Once you get past the formalities and make a connection, you can bridge the conversation to make it work for you. This can be especially important when working with the media and is a great skill for all communicators. Learning how to bridge conversations is learning how to move someone from where they want the conversation to be to where you want it to go. In other words, bridging the communication is all about how to take control of an interview, or conversation.
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 begin controlling the conversation by using one of these communication bridging techniques:
1. Briefly answer the question, then 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. Pause and don’t say something until you are ready to, even if it creates a bit of an uncomfortable gap.
These bridging tips really work. Practice one the next time you feel yourself in a conversation you need to change the direction of, or one you didn’t really want to be in.
Betty Lochner is a human resources consultant, business coach, and expert in workplace communications. She is the author of two books on communication, and a newly published journal, Intentional Gratitude.
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