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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

8 Tips to Improve Your Conversational Effectiveness

Published June 28, 2014 7:07 PM by Glen McDaniel

I am sure you have all heard the lament, “He/she just does not know how to talk to people.” As team members laboratorians have to interact with each other and convey information not only to fellow laboratorians (peers and supervisors) but to their customers outside the lab as well.


Managers, especially brand new managers, just promoted from the bench, might find it challenging or awkward to have those difficult conversations where someone (possibly a former peer) has to be counseled or told unpleasant news. Supervisors also have to arbitrate conflict among co-workers. They also represent the lab to outsiders and have an extra responsibility to present a professional, conciliatory tone.


No matter the nature of the conversation, some very simple rules can help. EAP Resources, an Atlanta firm providing Employee Assistance Programs to various organizations, offers some very simple conversation tips.



1. Use the other person's name from time to time during the talking, such as, “I agree with you, Betty, and will support your proposal.” Our names are precious to us and nearly everyone has a feel-good experience when being addressed by name. “Gary, would you call me tomorrow with the quote?”


2. Instead of asking general questions such as, “How's it going?” ask specific personal questions like, “How does your son like dental school?” Being specific shows that you remember details about matters important to the other person, such as the family, special interests, and certain individual challenges. Routine and general questions usually elicit only routine responses like, “Fine thanks.”


3. Lighten up the talk with a smile. Even with serious topics, a friendly smile can be appropriate and can add a measure of good will that is helpful in advancing understanding. Being overly-serious tends to suppress feelings and makes the tone of our conversation seem flat and aloof. Relax, drop your shoulders and breathe.


4. Respect people's time for talking so that you don't hold them hostage. If you're uncertain ask, “Do you have a few minutes to talk now?” This is especially useful for telephone conversations, or even for someone in the lab who may be busy trying to complete a time-limited task. Work with their schedule.


5. Give the other party their turn to talk. You can do this by talking in paragraphs, not chapters, and then signaling it's their turn with a question like, “What are your thoughts?” Do not talk over the other person or even answer questions before the questioner has finished asking.


6. When you're with someone, give your full attention. The gift of your presence and attention is quietly powerful and strengthens relationships. Fully engaged listening is rare in our multi-tasking worlds of work and home. When you listen, just listen. Don't wander.  Even constantly averted eyes or “got to take this call” interruptions can break the mood, cause interruption in flow and be perceived as a lack of interest-or worse, disrespect.


7. End your conversation gracefully and not abruptly. When appropriate, thank or compliment the other person when you are ending. “I really enjoyed talking with you and understand the situation much better now. Thanks a lot.”


8.  If possible, recap what you heard and set a time for follow-up. “So, Bella you are suggesting working 32 hours on weekends and being off an extra day during the week? I will look at the schedule you created and get back to you by next Wednesday or Thursday. Thanks for being creative and please feel free to let me know if you have any other ideas.”


These little things add a quality of civility and care to any conversation. Ultimately, they mean a lot because your attitudes tend to be reciprocated. Some individuals just simply have a knack for easy conversation; others don’t.  If you make an effort to incorporate certain phrases and to follow some simple rules you will be rewarded with a much more harmonious and effective workplace.


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