Thursday, September 2, 2010

Is it conversation - or monologue?

In groups where my goal is to improve communication, we do an exercise to demonstrate a point about effective listening.  We pair the participants and give them several communication assignments, the last of which is that the partner who is "it" is supposed to "not listen."

I've seen many attempts at not listening (it's harder than it sounds to miss everything,) with the most popular being averting one's eyes, turning the whole body in a direction away from the speaker,or even attempting to leave the room.  But the most successful technique to avoid listening isn't defensive - it's an offensive move - talking incessantly.

It's said that whomever asks the questions controls the conversation.  Where would James Bond be if he blathered on rather than listened?  He wouldn't have the information he needed to foil the bad guy du jour, (or to find the hot woman du jour, either!)

Conversation is when you take turns talking.  I know, some turns are longer than others.  Some people don't tend to process ideas out loud, so they might not be as forthcoming.  They might need help in the way of pump-priming questions  And others need no priming - they need to say anything and everything out loud, audience willing or unwilling, in order to make sense of things for themselves.

Believe it or not, good listeners are seen to be the best conversationalists.  Ironic, isn't it?  But if you think about it for a moment, every person wants to feel acknowledged and important.  How better to help someone feel important than to yield the floor to them in a conversation?  Let them steer the boat for a while.

Just for today, notice the percentage of the time you're listening vs. talking.  Then take note of:
  • The quality and quantity of information you're receiving, and
  • The quality of the relationship
My bet is that you'll find that an improvement in your habits of listening will yield an improvement in your interpersonal results. 

1 comment:

Julie Poland, certified business coach said...

P.S. - Conversation is even more than taking turns - it also involves receiving the other person's message and providing feedback. In good conversation each person's message influences the other person's next comment. Otherwise, it's dueling monologues.