Did you ever attend a party where one person dominates the conversation? They think they’re on stage, performing for an audience. Similarly, have you ever attended a meeting where one person rambles on and on and on? I assume they’re trying to make a point, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what. I wonder whether they’re trying to deliver a message or just want to hear themselves talk. In any case, the audience may be listening, but the message isn’t being heard.
There’s a big difference between being heard and being understood.
If attention-seekers are trying to grandstand, then mission accomplished. But if they are trying to communicate, persuade, or influence others in the room, their words are falling on deaf ears. The truth is that some folks like to hear themselves talk. They monopolize the conversation, interrupt incessantly, steer the conversation to advance their own agenda, and don’t let a word in edgewise. They shout over others, repeat ideas again and again, and rarely take a breath when they’re talking your ear off. (Ugh!) You have to ask yourself, what, if anything, are they trying to accomplish? As Plato said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.”
Speak to Be Understood Rather Than Heard
There are many reasons why talkaholics behave this way. Some folks are self-absorbed and have an inflated sense of importance. They think they’re the smartest person in the room and want you to know that. Others are overexcited, insecure, socially inept, or lack awareness that they’re dominating the conversation.
I’m sure they believe they’re accomplishing something by preaching, ranting, or complaining, but it would serve them well to pause…and take the temperature of the room. The truth is that they’re talking to themselves.
Here are 10 things talkaholics should know about communicating:
If you have nothing to say, don’t say it. Enough said.
Speak with a goal in mind. Before opening your mouth, or hitting the send button, determine whether you have something valuable to contribute and if your message is constructive. As the saying goes, you can’t unring a bell.
Formulate your ideas before speaking. Be clear, concise, and coherent. Use stories, metaphors, and examples to paint a vivid picture. Remember, if you can say it in a paragraph, don’t write a book.
Talk with people, not at them. People don’t like to be lectured, given a sermon, or be the recipient of jargon-filled gobbledygook. Remember, it’s not only what you bring to the table, but also how you serve it.
Communicate. Don’t just talk. Communication is a two-way street. It requires more than talking. Identify topics of mutual interest. Draw others into the conversation and show respect for what they have to say.
Gauge your audience. Connect with your audience. Be empathetic. Listen for what’s not being said by identifying emotional cues and observing body language. Moreover, ask open-ended questions to confirm that your message is understood.
Impress others by listening. Listening will not only make you wiser, but it’ll also make you look smarter. People think the best way to make a good impression is to prove how smart they are by talking. They’re mistaken. If you want to make a big splash, be a good listener.
Listen with the intent to understand. According to one study, we retain around half of what people say to us. (And that’s directly after they say it.) Good listening requires more than keeping your mouth shut. Ask questions. Give positive nonverbal cues. And listen without judgment.
Listen to learn. We often spend our listening time thinking about how we’ll respond or, worse yet, thinking about something else entirely. As the Dalai Lama said, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”
Keep quiet. You won’t regret it. As Frank Tyger, the editorial cartoonist and columnist, said, “Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you into trouble.”
If You Want to Be Heard, Listen
Most people feel compelled to talk — even when they don’t have anything to say. That said, the next time you want to make a statement, listen if you want to be heard. As Ashleigh Brilliant, the American author, said, “If you think communication is all talking, you haven’t been listening.”
Check out Frank’s latest book, The Path to a Meaningful Life.
Are You An Effective Communicator?
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