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You’re Not Part Of This Conversation

September 11, 2013

What do you think you’re doing?

What? What did I do?

Rodney, that was the VP of one of my biggest suppliers!

I know, you said that when you introduced me.

If you can’t figure out when you’re not part of a conversation you need to just be silent!

I was really confused. I was talking to my brother who was the VP of Marketing for a mid-sized computer company. In fact, we were in his booth at Brainshare. I had recently left Microsoft and I was at Brainshare to network and work on lining up consulting contracts. I honestly had no idea what had bothered my brother so much. Long time readers of this column may remember that this was the same brother who told me Now Would Be a Great Time To Shut Up!

Eventually, I realized what the problem was. While talking to me my brother wasn’t in VP mode. I was with his brother and we were talking as brothers do. When the VP from his supplier walked up, he switched into business mode. I didn’t notice the switch and I kept talking just as we had been. Not that we had been saying anything inappropriate or rude, but my brother was there to work. Once a business contact joined the conversation, our purposes were no longer the same.

I was there to meet people and sell them on Rodney M Bliss, either as a business contact, or a potential hire or a potential consultant. His purpose was to sell his company’s software and image. And with his biggest supplier, image was really important.

Fast forward from that meeting 10 years ago, to last week. We are again in the Salt Palace, the location of Brainshare. This time we are there for Comic Con (Why I Love Conventions.) And instead of my brother, I was there at the invitation of Howard Tayler, creator of Schlock Mercenary.


The vendor floor was scheduled to open at 3:00pm. After putting the finishing touches on the booth, we headed to lunch; Howard and his wife Sandra and a friend of Howard’s who was also an illustrator and his wife. My mind went back to that conversation so many years ago.

It quickly became apparent that this was a business lunch. Howard and his friend discussed Convention strategies. Both of them worked for themselves and since Salt Lake Comic Con was a new show, neither one knew exactly what to expect. Because I don’t generally work in the Comic Con space, I had no idea how much an independent artist relies on revenue from shows.

The lunch was a fascinating education for me. And I did very little talking. In fact, each time I had something that I thought about adding to the conversation, I ran it through multiple filters to decide if it added value to the conversation, and if it was appropriate. Often the time I spent filtering it meant that the moment for saying something had passed and I simply remained silent.

I reflected on it afterward, that this was exactly what my brother was talking about all those years ago. I’m much better at reading a conversation and realizing what each person wants out it. Often I’ll be a major participant. After all, we all know I love to talk. But, it’s important to realize when I’m not really a participant, or shouldn’t speak as much. But, an ironic thing happens when you allow others to do most of the talking. They leave the conversation thinking you are brilliant.

Try it, next time you have the chance to engage a stranger in conversation, either on a plane, or at a convention. Ask a couple of leading questions and let the other person talk. You’ll be amazed how much you learn and how smart they will think you are.

And if you get invited to take part in someone else’s conversation with a business associate, remember that you are probably not really part of that conversation.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, blogger and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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or contact him at (rbliss at msn dot com)

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