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Good things come in threes, so let’s look at three trios of eclectic, helpful tips.

Byron Wien, long-time investor and now vice-chairman of the Blackstone Advisory Group, offers these lessons from his decades at work:

  • Prescription for meeting: When you encounter someone new, treat that person as a friend.  “Assume he or she is a winner and will become a positive force in your life. Most people wait for others to prove their value. Give them the benefit of the doubt from the start,” he advises.
  • Pick the tough route: The hard way is always the right way. Shortcuts just lead to trouble.
  • Find your perfect job: There is a perfect job out there for everyone. Unfortunately, most people never find it. Keep searching until you have it. That’s where happiness lies.

Here are three ideas on improving your conversations, from Celeste Headlee, author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter, in an interview with Farnam Street’s The Knowledge Project:

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  • A catchy metaphor: Think of conversations as a game of catch. When tossing a ball, there is an even balance between throwing and catching. In conversation, you want an even balance of talking and listening.
  • Your mouth is not the key factor: A goal in a conversation is to learn something new and surprising. But since you know what you know, make it a goal to learn by listening intently to the other person.
  • Interpretive listening is when you are trying to understand. Evaluative listening occurs when you’re deciding whether the other party is right or wrong. Transformative listening is when you are changed by the conversation.

Leadership development consultants Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, in a Harvard Business Review blog, looked at the 360-degree assessments of 87,000 leaders and identified three key clusters that build the foundation for trust:

  • Positive relationships: You build trust through things like staying in touch on issues and resolving conflicts.
  • Good judgment and expertise: Others should trust your ideas and advice.
  • Consistency: You do what you say you will.

They thought consistency was the most important, but when they dug deeper, they found relationships to be more critical. When both judgment and consistency were high but relationships low, trust still went down significantly.

“This may be because many leaders are seen as occasionally inconsistent. We all intend to do things that don’t get done, but once a relationship is damaged or if it was never formed in the first place, it’s difficult for people to trust,” they write.

Those trios aren’t directly connected, but each offers handy advice.

Quick Hits

  • If your e-mails end with a phrase such as, “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call,” you may be messing up. Customer service consultant Jeff Mowatt says it’s not only a clichéd line – makes you seem like you’re not thinking about what you’re writing – but it’s also condescending. They know they can ask questions and will if they have to.
  • Want to stop overthinking your decisions? Give yourself a deadline that’s fairly immediate. That allows continued thought – but only for a reasonable interval, according to psychotherapist and author Amy Morin.
  • Start your meetings on time. It’s not easy to do; it always feels polite to wait for others, and every meeting has some latecomers. But blogger Eric Jacobson says if there are six people waiting 10 minutes for the latecomers, that’s one hour of collective wasted time.
  • Here’s a scary idea that recruiter Gerald Walsh says makes eminent sense: Write a failure résumé. List all the failures in your life, from not getting into your preferred university to blowing a job interview and failing to land a job that seemed destined for you. No, don’t send it out when applying for jobs. But use it to learn from your mistakes.
  • If you’re on a Skype conference call or job interview, it’s now possible to blur the background  behind you. Tech writer Fatima Wahab suggests you access the Audio & Video tab on Skype’s settings while on the call – it probably won’t work beforehand – and using the “Blur my background" feature under the camera preview.

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