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Keep Your Conversations Focused

Updated: Oct 4, 2019

Do you struggle with keeping focused and on-task when it comes to your conversations?

John is a long-time client of mine who reminded me recently of the work we did years ago on his communication. You see, John had this way of taking you on a long, roundabout journey when you had a conversation with him. He made things more complicated than they needed to be, and he shared way too much information. John realized this was an issue for quite a while before we began working together. This was 5 years ago, and now John has been promoted twice since that time. We still get together to work on target leadership competencies that he needs to master.

In reflecting over the work we did on his communication, I remembered that not only was it frustrating to people, but people in the office had begun to avoid John (probably in his personal life too). In talking with a few of the folks he interacted with, they actually felt badly about avoiding John, because they really liked him. But they just didn’t have the time or energy to spend on these long, drawn-out, unorganized conversations.

So how did John turn this around? He and I came up with an acronym to help him stay on track with his conversations. The acronym was F-SOS!  

F- Focus. John was to take a few seconds and focus on the topic. If possible, he could jot it down in front of him to help his stay focused on the topic while in the conversation.

S- Silence. John learned that he needed to be silent at first. He needed to listen, or think, or both - before talking. This helped him be comfortable with the silence.

O - Organize. The silence also gave John a moment to organize his thoughts. This especially came in handy when he didn’t get the opportunity to prepare in advance. When he did have a scheduled meeting, he could take the time to jot down the important topics for the meeting and use it to stay on track. He also used a parking lot to jot down ideas that were jumping into his mind (rather than sharing all of those ideas with others).

S - Short. Brevity was something John needed to work on, so keeping it short helped him to use less words, and not repeat himself.

John practiced this for a few months, on a daily basis, and it soon became habit for him. He also helped people he regularly communicated with to understand what he was working on so they could help. People loved helping him, and it also helped them to change their perception of John.

The true measure of success was that people no longer avoided him, and John was promoted in the next year!


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