The art of conversation requires us to find a balance between listening and speaking, hearing and expressing, and absorbing information and delivering information. Not every scenario is clear cut and 50/50 and, when it comes to interviews, collaborations, and yearly reviews, there are often high stakes associated with getting the perfect conversation ratio right. If you struggle with balancing conversation in any of these scenarios, use the following as a cheat sheet for appropriate, effective conversation.
– 40/60 or 50/50: There are logical arguments for both strongly selling your attributes in an interview and having it flow more like a typical, well balanced conversation, so this scenario relies on a judgment call from you. Typically at the beginning of your interview you’ll be doing more listening than actual speaking but, towards the end, you’ll have the ability to elaborate more and ask questions. Overall the interview balance should feel like a healthy conversation and rest as closely to 50/50 as possible but, if the interview is particularly short or used as a weeding out process, it may be more natural for your answers to take up more time than the questions themselves.
– 50/50: If it is a truly open, collaborative environment with little hierarchy your ideal split will always be 50/50. Can the ideal always be reached? Of course not! Some days you’ll come in with more ideas to contribute than others and the reverse will often happen on other days. Some teams have leaders or members whose experience weights their contribution more heavily than yours but, overall, striving for a 50/50 split between listening and contributing will help the collaboration process feel more balanced.
– 40/60 or 60/40: This scenario will never reach that perfect conversational balance of 50/50 because there is a natural weighted structure to every yearly review based on who initiated it. If you requested a yearly review with your boss, perhaps to ask for a raise or express your interest in a promotion, you’ll be expected to do the majority of the talking. Your preparation and detailed case for yourself will lead the conversation and your boss will spend more time listening than actually speaking. However, if yearly reviews are company policy or something your boss simply loves to do, expect them to lead the majority of the conversation. Chances are that if this is a procedure they regularly perform they’ll have prepared for it throughout the year and know what ideas they want to get across. If this is how your yearly review comes up, make sure to spend about 60% of your time listening and 40% speaking.
The art of conversation can make or break a career. It can help or harm you in interviews, collaboration, and yearly reviews. Instead of panicking before your next interview, collaborative project, or yearly review, use this guide as a cheat sheet to balance the time you spend speaking with the time you spend listening to have more effective conversations that help take your career to the next level.