My favorite activity while working in Corporate America was to sit quiet in a meeting with a question and wait for the talking heads to finish gassing. I would quietly wager in my head how long someone could talk before they exhausted their knowledge and finally showed up with their honest self.
That sounds harsh, I know, but it doesn’t make it less true. Not too long ago, from How to win friends and influence people, I learned that we are wired to want appreciation for what we have to offer. On an instinctual level we want to be included. Our inclusion helps us survive, so the more we can display our usefulness, then the more we are included.
People see more than we realize
I read daily. If there is one commonality among good writers is that they have the ability to paint a scene with their words at the same pace you create it with your imagination. A good writer must do this with both characters and setting because you are not in their head. The only way they can convey the picture is to describe it to you.
This, however, is not true when you physically walk into a room. Have you ever walked into a room and said your name and continued to talk and describe your hair and eye color? Or maybe described the colors and texture of your clothing? Of course not. That would be absurd. But we do the exact same thing in our conversations all of the time.
I often find myself reminding Jess who I am talking to. “You know, Lee, my oldest brother.” And yes, we have been married for almost 9 years, I think she knows who he is by name. But that doesn’t stop me from doing it. We typically over-explain ourselves at the desire to be heard and understood.
Another fun game I used to play is to start counting the times someone makes the same point or count how many words they use after you understand their point. Please do this in your head, it’s just rude otherwise. I say all this jokingly, but if you start noticing it in others, you will also notice it in your own speech. Step one to improvement.
When is the right time to ask a question
Relax, there is a right time to talk and when you do, always make sure you end the point with a question. The greatest tool I have ever been given to defuse an argument is to make your point and then ask the other person what do they think. You automatically give them permission to talk and express their side of the story.
This will flip a switch in their mind next time you start talking to listen better. Part of them will fear that you will ask another question, so they better listen and take mental notes. “What do you think?” or “How does that make you feel?” are great questions to show that it is their turn and that you care about what they are going to say next.
I know we have heard it a thousand times, but it still remains true. More than half of talking is first to listen. So don’t be one of those people that ramble on 30 minutes after you’ve made your point. Respect your audience and respect your ability to convey a message.
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