The question, ‘can we talk?’ can strike fear or dread in us because we anticipate that the person asking the question is about to bring up a subject we find difficult to
discuss. Or, that the person is going to launch in to a sermon, or worse, a diatribe, about our latest short-coming. Sometimes I like to answer that question with one of my own: ‘can we listen?’
Conversation is not one person talking. It is a collaborative effort to exchange information in a cooperative manner. It is a group effort where each person contributes by chiming in and also by listening and comprehending what is being said. Conversation is silence broken into small pieces by speech.
Some people have no sense of balance between listening and talking, between silence and speech.
They stay in the spotlight by interrupting others frequently, or by asking questions designed to show off their knowledge, or by engaging in a monologue.
Others interrupt the second they fear the conversation is veering away from immediately answering their question.
Or, they use confrontational language to cow others into giving the answer they’ve already determined is the one they want, truth or better ideas be hanged.
Still others refuse to engage in the conversation by refusing to speak. They appear to be listening, yet have no opinion or information to share.
Others refuse to engage by failing to listen. They choose to not understand, or to misconstrue, what is said.
‘Can we talk?’ is really an invitation for all parties to take their turn. It is an invitation to listen as well as to speak.
Whether the purpose of the conversation is to solve a problem, ask for a change in behavior, or share information, we’re at our most effective in using conversation to achieve our goal when we maintain a good balance between listening and talking.
“The art of conversation is the art of hearing
as well as of being heard.”
~ William Hazlitt
Your Personal Appraisal
- Do you listen as much as you talk in conversation?
- How do you invite others to take their turn?
- Are there breaks in your conversations to allow all to think about what has been said?
- When you ask others, ‘can we talk?’ do you really mean, ‘let me tell you’?
Live Honest, Open and True
This week, when you are engaged in conversation, take time to:
- Make an honest effort to invite and inspire others to offer their ideas rather than to simply respond to your own.
- Be open to the silences that occur and notice whether it allows others to play a larger role in your conversations.
- A true conversation involves equal parts of speaking and listening, in your conversations track each for yourself.
Do you have struggle with taking turns in a conversation, either by talking too much or listening too long? Stop by our Life is HOT blog Facebook Group and leave a comment or tweet me @LifeIsHOTBlog with the hash tag #LifeIsHOT!