I am a talker. If you’ve ever met me, you already know this. Growing up it was always the first thing my teachers would say about me during parent/teacher conferences. “Lisa sure likes to talk!” At first when I heard them (and others!) say this—usually with a smile on their faces—I thought it was an attribute. As I got older I realized it was also a curse, not only for people around me, but for me too. Since listening is not something that comes naturally for me, I’ve had to work hard at honing this skill and I’m always looking for new ways to improve my conversing (read listening) techniques.
Last week I came across a TED talk called 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation by Celeste Headlee. Thinking I might learn something from it, I watched the video. I’m glad I did! It’s chuck-full of lots of great information and suggestions:
According to Pew Research one-third of teenagers send more than 100 texts a day. And more than half of them are more likely to text their friends than talk to them face to face.
Honestly, this statistic doesn’t really surprise me, but the ramifications are alarming. Here’s an analogy I came up with from my take-away: Todays typing is to cursive handwriting as texting is to real-time conversational skills. Not that I care that much about cursive, just saying…
A few years ago, Paul Barnwell wrote an article regarding this in The Atlantic. In it he wrote, “Conversational competence might be the single most overlooked skill we fail to teach.” Uh-oh!
Sounds like I’m not the only one who could benefit from watching Headlee’s TED talk. It seems the Post-Millennial generation (aka iGeneration) is going to have their conversational work cut out for them as they make their way into the workforce. But as we all know by having conversations of our own, they aren’t alone.
Here are Headlee’s 10 suggestions:
- Don’t multitask
Be present in the moment (easier said than done) but if you are going to be part of a conversation, be in it!
- Don’t pontificate
If you want to have your thoughts known without a response, argument, or growth, write a blog. Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Listening requires setting aside oneself.
- Use open ended questions
Use words like: who, what, when, where, and how. What was it like? How did you feel? That will get them thinking and answering with more than one word sentences.
- Go with the flow
When thoughts enter your mind, let them go or else you will focus on those thoughts instead of what is being said. Side note: This one is extremely difficult for me. When someone says something that reminds me of a story of my own, I have a hard time not just blurting it out instead of letting it go and listening to theirs!
- If you don’t know. Say you don’t know
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs
All experiences are different. Just because you had a similar experience doesn’t mean you know how they felt. Don’t make this about you. Me again: I do this, but not because I want to make it about me, but because I think it’s a way to form a connection. Isn’t sharing common experiences why support groups are formed? Don’t people want to know they aren’t alone in what they are going though? I wonder what other people think, yay or nay?
- Try not to repeat yourself
When we feel strongly about something we often make the same point over and over, sometimes using other words, sometimes the same words over and over. Yes, that’s me. Right kids?
- Stay out of the weeds
No one cares about the dates, times, or places. You know that minutia you are having a hard time coming up with? No one cares.
Most important skill. When your mouth is open you are not learning. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People said, “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Ouch! I wish I could say I don’t do this, but I do.
- Be brief
Celeste quotes her sister here, “A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.”
Be interested in other people. Listen to what they have to say, then be prepared to be amazed.
Okay, I’ve got my mouth shut and my ears wide open. Amaze me!
A. Alliance Collection Agency, Inc. is a full service, licensed accounts receivable management and debt collection agency providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Founded in northern Illinois in 2005, we have been proudly improving the bottom-line on behalf of our business partners in and around Chicagoland for over 12 years.