Opening the Conversation
“He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end.” ~ Harry Emerson Fosdick
In business meetings, the person who opens the conversation has a distinct advantage.
I’ve been through dozens of conversations with lawyers representing two or three parties — a better word for these conversation would be “negotiations” — where the lawyers literally jockey for the preamble. The first lawyer will open up with a long winded greeting, frame out the objectives and agenda, and once done, the second lawyer would simply re-open the meeting with a whole new greeting/preamble, as if the first lawyer had not even spoken.
This idea of “owning the opening” is only useful to the point that you have a willing and/or unaware participant. Otherwise, it can come across as heavy-handed, controlling and even condescending.
Used well, starting a business conversation with a solid opening is a positive thing for everyone involved. A good opening will ensure that you reach a good ending, in the minimum amount of time. Risk — the deviation from desired or expected outcomes — increases with time, and a positive outcome is only as good as the time (and effort) necessary to achieve it.
EXCEPTION: Let the other person start, to get a better sense of where they’re at / what they want to talk about. You can always take the reins back once you have a better understanding of this crucial information. At the extreme, you might witness a kind of jockeying for second position, to put the first person in the “seller” role and oneself in the “buyer” seat. (“What is it that you want to talk about?” “No, what is it that you want to talk about?” ) A more garden variety is the passive, “Silent Godfather” approach, typically used by bosses when employees approach them for a raise.