Ben Stich was challenged by a GMP reader to offer tips for talking that would make partners want to tune in. Challenge accepted.
Ever been told you should listen more? To wait before you respond? To just shut up and just pay attention for a second? To stop sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher going “wah-wa-wah-wa-wah…?”
Solid advice, right?
Or that’s what Elissa wrote to me after reading a post I wrote about how to listen better. She argued “too much emphasis and blame is placed on a lack of listening skills when much of the breakdown lies with the talker.”
Elissa threw down the gauntlet, insisting I write a post about talkers!
I will take on your challenge, Elissa.
Communication in relationships
In the aforementioned post, I asked:
Haven’t you noticed that lots of people who declare that they have great listening skills tend to:
- Dominate conversations
- Talk about themselves…a lot
- Make assumptions about the other person
- Give advice very quickly
- Repeat themselves…repeatedly
Great listeners? Nope. These folks are great talkers!
Except, to Elissa’s point, some of these folks are horrific talkers!
Talking is a way to convey information. To share thoughts, feelings, ideas, and concerns. Yet, we have all had the experience of talking with someone and realizing later they did not absorb our message.
Sometimes this happens because they’re poor listeners. Other times, like Charlie Brown’s teacher, it is because we are lousy talkers! Elissa suggested I create a list of warning signs to help readers recognize if they are of the terrible talker variety.
Take a talking litmus test
If you recognize any of these signs in yourself, take note. People probably tune you out from time to time, like Lucy and the gang in class. You can credit Elissa for inspiring the first four.
- You’ve talked about the problems with your co-workers seven times already and begin again for the eighth time
- You get unfocused and jump from topic to topic…never completely finishing any thought
- Talk with food in your mouth
- Your listener is not looking you in the eye…or yawning excessively
- You check your text messages or Twitter feed while telling a story
- You say the same thing five different ways from yesterday
- You say the same thing five times in a row
- You say “um” more than all your other words combined
- You are monotone
- You only talk to complain about something
- It’s only and always about you
Be honest with yourself. Have you ever done one of these things? I know I have.
The truth is one can be an effective communicator or an ineffective communicator. The difference can have profound effects on relationships.
In the “listening” post I wrote how listening is a fundamental communication skill. Likewise, talking effectively is another one of those fundamental skills.
To be a more effective talker:
- Decide what you want to say before you say it
- Before repeating yourself, ask the other person if they understand your point of view, even if that means asking them to tell you what they think you are saying
- Remember that less is usually more (I love this advice I received early in my career)
- Put your food and phone away, turn off the TV, and take out the ear buds
- Practice talking with fewer ums, errs, and clearing of your throat
Or, take a page from Elissa’s book (direct quotes):
- Don’t take up precious solitudes with meaningless conversations
- No one should have to take notes to connect your conversational dots
- Look at the pupils of those listening. If they are rolling into the back of their heads, it’s probably time to take a rest
- Keep an eye out for yawns. They are informative clues
- If you’ve already said it, then please shut up about it. Reruns are boring on television and in real life
She’s got a point. Imagine Charlie Brown’s success if his teacher had only been a better talker.
More from Ben Stich: What Are You Even Talking About?! How to Better Understand Your Partner
Read more from where this post was originally published: Mediation Blog Helping Family Communication and Family Conflict
Photo: Andrew Kuchling/Flickr