Shirley's Articles / Present Yourself Powerfully

Why Time And Place Matter To Your Conversations

When you’re preparing for an important conversation, do you put as much thought into when and where it will take place as you do into what you’re going to say?

No matter how well you plan your words, if the time and place aren’t right, your conversation will not succeed.

When To Talk?

  • Enough time?
    We’ve all experienced the frustrating consequences of starting a big discussion when you know you only have a few minutes. But it’s not only about having enough time.
  • The right time?
    Have you ever been in the middle of a crucial chat in a public place when suddenly the lunch crowd starts pouring in and you can’t hear yourself think?Listening to someone first thing in the morning when you’re fresh and full of energy may be more effective than late in the afternoon when you’re tired and your head is full of the day’s issues. For others, the opposite may be true.When you’re considering time, the quality of your time counts as much as the quantity.

Where To Talk?

When it comes to choosing the place to hold the conversation, simply booking a room is not enough. It’s important to decide what interpersonal dynamics will work best.

  • Close or buffer? Some conversations work best across a table. This can serve not only as a place to hold your laptop, but as a buffer creating a bit of distance between the participants.
  • Formal or casual? Other conversations work best side by side on a sofa in an informal environment like a coffee shop.
  • Still or moving? A creative brainstorm may generate better ideas, with the conversation held in the fresh air while walking.
  • Direct or indirect? Will she share more freely if she’s facing you directly or if she can focus elsewhere while speaking.
  • Stuff or no stuff? Will you listen more effectively with a pen and notepad in front of you, or unencumbered by ‘stuff’. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, would always move aside whatever he was working on when an employee stepped into his office for a chat. This let the employee feel the importance that Jack placed on the employee and the topic.

So, before you start a conversation, think about the context first, not just about the content. And if the time or place don’t feel right after you’ve started, don’t be afraid to change it. Investing in the time and place of a conversation can make all the difference to the end result.

Article written by Marianna Pascal

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Shirley is an international bestselling author. She has established herself as a leading authority in email and business writing skills. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition sold over half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages. Her book Email Essentials reached #2 in the USA for publishers Marshall Cavendish International. Find out more about Shirley at

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