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Creating Connection in Conversation

Tips on an under-considered key to career and personal success.

Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain
Source: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain

Today, a career counseling client lamented that he never seems to make that seemingly magical connection that gets him the job. He mentioned that his wife does make such connection and got a job she thought she wouldn't get.

I explained that many factors could be at play and that some are out of his control but there are three things that may help. He found my describing them of value, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Bonding around a shared foundational value. We tend to like people who share our core values: liberal vs conservative, religious vs not, materialistic vs not. So even in a job interview, search for where you might share common ground and talk about that. Sometimes, pre-interview small talk is an opportunity.

Intelligence mitigated by questions. For most jobs and in most relationships, intelligence is valued. But beware of coming off like a know-it-all or someone who uses their intelligence to make the other person feel less-than. So go into such conversations trying to be your intelligent self—we're all more and less so depending on the situation. But mitigate the risk of seeming hubristic by keeping your comments brief and perhaps by softening the impact, for example, by ending with, "Just a thought. What do you think?"

Mirroring your conversation partner's verbal style: Three components of verbal style are average utterance length. pace of delivery, and focus on facts or feelings. Some people's average utterance is a minute or longer, others just a few seconds. Some people talk rapid-fire; others are laconic. Some seem to most value facts, others feelings. While remaining within what you feel is reasonably natural, modulate to accommodate your conversation partner's average utterance length, pace, and focus on facts vs. feelings.

The takeaway

Whether in looking for a job, on the job, or in personal relationships, that "magical" connection can make a big difference. So reflect a moment: Do you need to do a better job in using any of those three keys to connection?

  • Unearthing and then connecting on a shared foundational value.
  • Showing your intelligence but inoculating yourself against seeming hubristic by acknowledging that it's just a perspective and/or asking for theirs.
  • Mirroring your conversation partner's average length of utterance, pace of delivery, and focus on facts versus feelings.

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