Let me start by asking a question: have you ever wondered why politics these days appears so fractured? Look no further than the current Presidential debates in the US to see what I mean. Then again, how many of us shut out the opinions that we don’t want to hear? We become Twitter “followers” of people whose opinions we agree with, we “un-friend” people on Facebook who disagree with our views on topics as widespread as immigration and abortion. We are all, it appears, becoming more polarized, less likely to compromise and less likely to listen to each other. Part of the problem is, without a doubt, how we use new technology. It’s easy to leave a comment on an article, a blog, a video and then to ignore the response. That is neither engaging in a debate nor having a conversation.
Teaching people to talk
We’ve all had that one really good conversation, right? The one where you come away feeling engaged, even inspired and that life has taken a step forward. Of course not every conversation can be like that, but there is no reason why more of your conversations can’t approach those heights.
Here are ten basic rules to follow, which will enable you to have better conversations.
The ten rules
- Number one – be committed to the conversation. Don’t think about your dinner or that argument yesterday with your spouse. If you want to get out of the conversation, make your excuse and leave.
- Number two – don’t lecture people. If you want to preach, get yourself a pulpit or get on a soapbox. You need to enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn and yes, sometimes, that means setting aside your personal opinion.
- Number three – Use open-ended questions. If you ask someone, “Were you happy?” you’ll probably get the answer, “Yes, I was”. If you ask them “How did you feel?”, then you might open up a whole range of different responses.
- Number four – don’t spend the whole conversation thinking about your next question or interposing that information that you heard on the News program yesterday evening. Follow the flow of the conversation.
- Number five – if you don’t know, admit you don’t know and cut to something you do know.
- Number six – never equate your experience with theirs. We’ve all done it, we think we are showing empathy. We are not. Experiences are never the same, they are individual and more importantly they are about you not the other person. Try not to use the conversation as an opportunity to promote yourself.
- Number seven – try not to repeat yourself. It is really boring.
- Number eight – spare the details. No-one really cares whether it happened in 2008 or 2005.
- Number nine – listen. If you are not listening, you are not having a conversation, and you are not learning. Developing this skill is one of the most important skills that you could develop. Many people claim they are good listeners but in fact all they are doing is waiting for the next opportunity to talk.
- Number ten – be brief. A conversation is two people talking and listening, not one person dominating.
So that’s it. It’s not rocket science, but developing this skill does require effort and most of all an open mind. Maybe though, if you apply some or all of these rules, you’ll find as I did, that there area lot of people out there with interesting things to say about themselves and about our world.
- Shut out the opinions that we don’t want to hear.
- We are all, it appears, becoming more polarized.
- Part of the problem is, without a doubt, how we use new technology.
- Be committed to the conversation.
- Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn.
- Follow the flow of the conversation.
- Experiences are never the same, they are individual.
- Try not to repeat yourself.
- If you are not listening you are not having a conversation.
- There are a lot of people out there with interesting things to say about themselves and about our world.
Top 5 Ways to Improve Your Listening Skills
Be fully in the moment
Put yourself in their shoes
Pick up on key points and acknowledge them
Practice active listening
Develop curiosity and an open mind