As I walk through each week, a part of my mind is thinking about this blog, about the fact that at some point on Sunday evening I’m going to need to sit down and write something worthwhile and interesting. Those of you already writing blogs know this isn’t always an easy challenge. But this past week quite a few ideas presented themselves. I worked with a very wonderful group of people at Downey Mortgage and Financial. They are young, energetic, well-educated and all very focused on being as excellent as possible at their jobs. It was inspiring to spend time with them. On Friday afternoon we discovered something together – something I’ve known, but have never given a lot of thought. Here it is in its most simple form: “Conversation is an art.” I know, I know, I can already hear some of you saying “Duh, Mary Jane. You didn’t know that!”. Well – I think I’ve been taking it for granted. For whatever reason – a house full of adults, debating in high school, lucking into a journalism career – I’ve always been able to “grow” conversations. I guess I started learning at an early age. But it is something I “learned” by practicing. In case it isn’t obvious, you can’t become skilled at the “art of conversation” if you are not having conversations with people. So here’s what we worked with on Friday – allow conversation to grow by asking an open-ended question – for purposes of demonstration I’ll use the very mundane “What did you do this weekend?” – and then let conversation grow from the answer. So if my answer to that question is that I spent Saturday at meetings connected with some volunteer work I do, then you need to pursue that with me. Don’t just say “Oh, that’s nice. Well I went hiking with some friends,” because that might be the end of the conversation. Instead work with what you have – you might ask “What kind of volunteer work do you do?” or “Did the meetings take up your whole day on Saturday?” or “Oh yes, and what did you do on Sunday?” Often we are so concerned with what we are about to say, that we actually don’t hear the openings for creating conversation. It is important to hone your listening skills. If you use all the openings others give you to work on your “art of conversation” you will learn more about your customers and potential customers (and probably about your friends and family too!) and build stronger, more interesting relationships. What do you think? What are your thoughts on conversation as an art?