Nowadays many of us have ever unfriended someone on facebook because they said something offensive about politics or religion, childcare, or even food. Many of us sometimes also avoid some persons because we just don’t want to talk to them, in order to have an impolite conversation.
This world that we live in, which every conversation has the potential to devolve into an argument, but we are not ready to it. Pew Research did a study of 10,000 American adults, they found that at this moment, we are more polarized, we are more divided, than we ever have been in history. We’re less likely to compromise, which means we’re not listening to each other. And we make decisions about where to live, who to marry, and even who our friends are going to be, based on what we already believe. Again, we’re not listening to each other.
A conversation requires a balance between talking and listening, and somewhere a long the way, we lost that balance. Now, part of that is due to technology, the smartphones that we all either have in our hands or close enough that we could grab them really quickly. According to Pew Research about a third American teenagers send more than a hundred texts a day. And many more of them, almost most of them are more likely to text their friends than they are to talk to them face to face.
Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and she knows the ingredients of a great conversation. There are 10 basic rules and if we just choose one of them and master it, we will already enjoy better conversations.
- Don’t multitask
It doesn’t mean just set down our cell phone, our tablet, our car keys or whatever is in our hand. It means be present, be in that moment. Don’t think about our argument we had in our previous conversation, don’t think about what we’re going to have for the future, because if you think another things while you are having conversation, just get out, don’t be half in it and half out of it.
- Don’t pontificate
If we want to state our opinion without opportunity for response, argument, push-back, or growth, just write a blog! We need to enter every conversation assuming that we have something to learn. The famed therapist M. Scott Peck said that true listening requires a setting aside of oneself. Sometimes that means setting aside your personal opinion. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will become less and less vulnerable; more and more likely to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. Again, assume that we always have something to learn. Then, Bill Nye said that everyone we will ever meet knows something that we don’t. So, remember that everybody is an expert in something.
- Use open-ended questions
Start our question with who, what, when, where, why, or how. If we put in a complicated question, we’re going to get a simple answer out. For example, if you asked, “were you terrified?”, he or she is going to respond to the most powerful word in that sentence, which is “terrified”, and the answer is “Yes, I was” or “No, I wasn’t”. “Were you angry?” “Yes, I was very angry”. Let them describe it. They are the ones that know. Try asking them things like, “what was like that?”, “how did that feel?”. Because then they might have to stop for a moment and think about it, and you’re going to get a much more interesting response.
- Go with the flow
That means thoughts will come into our mind and we need to let them go out of our mind. While we’ve sitting having a conversation with someone and then we remember another things and we would stop listening. So, the solution is stories and ideas that are going to come to us, tell them. Because we need to let them come and let them go.
- If we don’t know, say that we don’t know
Now, people on the radio are much more aware that they’re going on the record, and so they’re more careful about what they claim to be an expert in and what they claim to know for sure. Do that. Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap.
- Don’t equate our experience with theirs
If they talking about having lost a family member, don’t start talking about the time we lost a family member too. If they’re talking about the trouble they’re having at work, don’t tell them about how much we hate our job. It’s not the same and it’s never the same. All experiences are individual. More importantly, when people try to talk with us, it is not about us. We don’t need to take that moment to prove how amazing we are or how much we’ve suffered. Remember that conversation is not a promotional opportunity.
- Try not to repeat yourself
It’s condescending and it’s really boring, and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations or in conversations with our kids, we have a point to make, so we just keep rephrasing it over and over. Don’t do that.
- Stay out of the weeds
Frankly, people don’t care about the years, the names, the dates, all those details that we’re struggling to come up with in our mind. They don’t care. What they really care about is us. They care about what we’re like, what we have in common. So, forget the details and leave them out.
We can’t tell how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most, the number one most important skill that we could develop. Buddha said that if our mouth is open, we’re not learning. Calvin Coolidge said that no man ever listened his way out of a job. Why do we not listen to each other? First because we’d rather talk, when we’re talking, we are in control, so we don’t have to hear anything that we’re not interested in; we’re the center of attention, so we can bolster our own identity.
Or the other reason is we get distracted. The average person talks at about 225 words per minute, but we can listen up to 500 words per minute. So our minds are filling in those other 275 words. And look, we know, it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, but if we can’t do that, we’re not in a conversation. We are just two people shouting out barely related sentences in the same places. So, we have to listen to one another. Stephen Covey alarmed us that most of us actually don’t listen with the intent to understand, but we just listen with the intent to reply.
- Be brief
A good conversation is like a miniskirt; short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject (boardofwisdom.com). All of this boils down to the same basic concept, and it is this one: be interested in other people.
If we’re as a listeners, always assume that everyone has some hidden amazing thing about them. It will make us be a better listener: we keep our mouth shut as often we possibly can, we keep our minds open, and we are always prepared to be amazed, and we are never disappointed. We have to do this thing. Go out, talk to people, listen to people, and most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.
Those are the things that can make us have a better conversation ever after. Don’t only read them, but understand them, then practice them to our daily conversations. Let’s be prepared to be amazed with the results!
Source : TEDxCreativeCoast, May 2015