“I’d rather listen and say one or two memorable points than speak any chance I get and be forgotten.” That was the first – and memorable – piece of advice I received from Eljay Feuerman, a founding member of the National Millennial and Gen Z Community. Since that New York City day, intentionality has been my focus in conversations.
“Add more value to conversations,” they say. But, really, what does that even mean?
On the Community’s recent trip to Atlanta, Georgia, it clicked with me. I finally understood what Eljay meant when he gave me his communication advice. Adding more value to conversations, creating significance with what we say, doesn’t come from speaking more. It comes from speaking better. Fancy words, more input, flattery – none of that really matters. What matters is being able to listen, think, then speak if necessary. I learned that by approaching conversations in that order, the discussion all of a sudden elevates itself. It matures and grows into something meaningful and memorable.
After visiting company headquarters like Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Mercedes-Benz, and UPS in Atlanta, here were my top five communication takeaways:
1. Listen, listen, listen. Nothing is more embarrassing than disregarding what someone says or repeating something already said. Like I mentioned before, I focused on being more intentional in my conversations on this trip. I know that mentality impacted my words when I was able to add input. Remember “listen, then think, then speak.”
2. People are people. At the end of the day, that’s who we all are. Big corporations aren’t scary, and they aren’t mean. They’re filled with hardworking people who want to make an impact on the world, so speak to them as such. Remember the Golden Rule!
3. Do your homework. These trips and company calls have pushed me to be on top of my game about a corporation before voicing my perspective or giving advice to them.
4. Don’t underestimate the impact you can make, no matter who you are. While it is important to know how to communicate, it’s also important to communicate! I’m from a small town in rural Tennessee, and I was certain that no corporate executive would want to hear from me. As a result, I often wouldn’t add anything to any conversation! What could I contribute that would actually make a difference? Oh, to know what I know now. As it turns out, corporate executives want to hear from every type of person in every type of demographic. I quickly learned I was able to be a voice for my fellow Tennesseans and help corporations understand the impact they make on rural communities.
5. Don’t be that person who has to have the last word. This one is straightforward but takes some self-discipline. Just say what you need to say, keep it simple, and let everyone else have their chance to speak.
I hope that through my experiences with the National Millennial and Gen Z Community, you can take the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to your own conversations.