How Well Do You Handle Your Choice Points in Conversation?

What were President Trump’s goals when he shared “highly classified” information with Russian officials?  It’s difficult to be sure.  We do know that what he said in the Oval Office resulted in a firestorm of criticism.  Was he “shooting from the hip,” trying to impress, or purposely giving away secrets?

As a rule, we don’t sufficiently consider the communication competence of presidential candidates.  Being a businessman was touted as a positive attribute during Trump’s presidential run.  But there are many failed businessmen and businesswomen.  Certainly we don’t need slick communicator presidents, but high on our list of important characteristics should be how well a candidate thinks on his or her feet — recognizes and effectively utilizes conversational choice points or turns at talk.

In the course of conversation, each statement or nonverbal expression one person makes is influenced by the anticipated and previous contributions of one or more others. Effective communicators know this.  They don’t simply talk.  They don’t just react.

Early on, especially in conversations that could have serious personal or professional consequences, it’s important to know where you want to go, topics you’d like to avoid, tone or “attitude” stances that facilitate as well as those that hinder, and potential obstacles that you’ll need to go around, over or work through.  At each choice point, opportunity exists to locate or retain a constructive path.

How do you handle your choice points?  Do you simply let conversations happen to you rather than guiding them away from disappointing or disastrous outcomes?

Conversations are the building blocks of relationships.  Relationships are the building blocks of most careers.  When we abdicate our responsibility in communication, we put our personal and professional futures in jeopardy.  Elect people to power who have no sense of this responsibility and we put all of us at risk.

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