I just got back from a wonderfully relaxing weekend wine tasting in Eastern Washington. My fiancé and I spent hours visiting wineries, sipping wine and talking. Now, there is no question that between the two of us, I am the more talkative person. It didn’t take me long to figure out that asking him “what do you think?” at every winery was not going to lead to much conversation. To him, it was another tasting room, it was more grapes and more wines and it was just idle chit chat. If I asked, “What do you think of this Merlot compared to the one we had earlier?” then he had something to say. He knew his opinion about the wins, understood where I was going with the conversation, and was happy to converse. In contrast, if someone at a tasting room asked me how the day was going, I was happy to talk about each stop we had made and the other places still on our list to visit.
That’s one of the big differences between men and women in their day to day communications. It’s something Deborah Tannen addresses in her book “You just don’t understand” and it’s likely one of the problems you’ll run into at the office this week.
The standard “How was your weekend?” question, will often times lead to a stock response. “Fine” “Too short” “Busy” you get the idea. Ask a question that’s a little more focused and you’re likely to get a better, more useful response. “What do you think about the Brett Favre allegations?” “What did you think about Detroit’s win against St. Louis?” “Did you see the Sounders made the playoffs?” Those questions help focus the conversation for your co-workers – particularly men. It gives them a chance to share their opinions without talking about “personal” issues or engaging in “chit-chat.”
Why is this interaction important? Consider this, when I came across a particularly friendly person at a tasting room this weekend, I was more inclined to make a purchase. If you’re in a sales position this example is something you already know. But each of us works in sales every day, we just think of it different ways. I’m constantly trying to sell my story ideas or show concepts to my co-workers because we’re they’re on board it’s easier to work with them. When I’m around athletes and coaches, I’m trying to sell my trustworthiness, professionalism and knowledge. Because when they’re on board with who I am, it’s easier to conduct interviews and get the information I need to do my job.