Talking and Listening is everything when your schooling, your sport, or job hinges and your love life depends
on how well you talk to people. We all need to learn a lot about how to have conversations and that most of us don’t converse very well. There is a list of ingredients we all need to know to have a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening goes a long way.
“Go out, watch people, talk to people, listen to people, enjoy a cuppa and, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed.”
Watching people around the world as I do with my business I watch people engage with one another all the time and I have come to realize that conversational competence might be the single most skill we fail to teach anyone these days. Adults and kids spend hours each day online on their computers and screens engaging in the exchange and collaboration of ideas with one another, but rarely do we effectively or efficiently have a chance to engage in inter personal communication skills one on one anymore. As a performer I truly look to being able to express my abilities, feelings and emotions through body language. Talk is not my forte in our sport but thats where it stops. When we are off stage or teaching we have to engage with the fans or the clients and it is important to be able to have effective communication and listening skills. Yet as we perform these days I see the people with their smart phones and tablets videoing and photographing our shows. Its awesome to see, but rarely do I see the exchange of passion through words happen when the lights come up. I can only hope the people go home feeling fulfilled with seeing our abilities.
Being a people watcher and well informed about body language ask yourself, “Is there any 21 century skill more important than being able to sustain coherent confident conversation with other individuals?” In the old days to have a polite conversation we were taught to do what Henry Higgins from my fair lady always said, “Stick to the basic conversation of the weather and your health’’, but with these days with politics and climate change and health care in the mix these subjects are not so good to start a conversation with anymore. The potential of every conversation in this day even if it is a trivial subject it has the ability to blow up into a passionate conversation between individuals. Hot and Cold, For or Against, Friend or Foe, its not normal not to be able to talk. We are more polarized in todays day than ever before in history. We are less likely to compromise between parties, which means we are not listening to each other in conversation. A conversation truly requires a balance between talking and listening between parties and somewhere along the way in time we have lost that balance.
Did you know Pure Research did a study on 10,000 Americans that use smart phones that we have in our hands today or close enough to grab quickly in areas distance. 1/3 of those American teenagers send more than 100 text in a day. These kids are more likely to text their friends than to talk them face to face. Now that is scary in the thought of having a silent society. We need to talk people.
Below are a list of great ideas of how to engage in a better more effective conversation. One of the great things before I go on is I truly get inspired by the people I have the opportunity to teach. I often smile because as an athlete and performer with the experience I have I often get taken back at the people that should be mentoring their students with passion, and caring, and the attention to detail that will set their kids apart. I smile when the students get what I am saying because what I try to say is complex modified into simplicity, or as simple as I can make it for them to understand. I love listening to them talk, but better yet I love when they as questions of Why, How, What. I love the curiosity, and their drive for passion in sport and life. I wish it was in all the people I get to work with but I have come to the conclusion, not all kids get the same chance. It is up to the parents and grand parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters, and friends to create and teach conversation. In my opinion most teachers and coaches these days do not seem to have time or energy to stimulate the minds of their people, but for those lucky people that have great mentors in their life, take full advantage for learning this trait in how to converse will be with you for life. Your one of the lucky ones so smile big time.
Here is a Guideline for Striking Up Better Conversations with People.
1. Don’t multitask. Just set down your cell phone, tablet, or car keys or what ever it maybe. Be present, be in that very moment. Don’t be thinking about your date last night or the argument you had with your boss, or what your going to have for dinner. If you want out of the conversation get out right away, but don’t be half in it. .
- Don’t Pontificate. If you wanted to state your opinion without any opportunity for response or pushback and have no confrontation write a blog. You want to enter every conversation assuming that you have something to learn. The famed therapist and M. Scott Peck said that true listening requires a setting aside of oneself. And sometimes that means setting aside your personal opinion. He said that sensing this acceptance the speaker will become less and less vulnerable and more and more likely to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. Again assume that you have something to learn. Bill Nye everyone you’ll ever meet know something that you do not. I put it this way everybody is expert in something.
- Use open ended questions. In this case take a cue from journalist, start your questions off with who, what, where, when, why, or how. If you put in a complicated question you’re going to get a simple answer out. If I Ask you “where you terrified?” You are going to respond to the most powerful word in that sentence which is terrified. The answer is “yes I was or no I wasn’t.” Where you angry? “Yes I was very angry.” Let them describe it, they were the ones experiencing it. They know how they feel. Try asking them things like what was that like? How did that feel? Because then they might have to stop for a moment and think about it.m and your going to get a much interesting response.
- Go with the flow. That means thoughts will flow into your mind and you need to let them go out of your mind. We heard interviews often in which a guest is talking for several minutes and then they host comes back in and asked a question which seems like it comes out of nowhere, it that question has already been answered by the guest, and that means the host probably stop listening to minutes ago because he thought of this really clever question. Duh! And he was bound and determined to say that question, and we do the exact same thing in real life instances. Here we are having a conversation with someone and then we remember that time that we met you Huge Jackman in the coffee shop and we stop listening to stories ideas are going to come to you you need to let them come and let them go.
- If you don’t know say that you don’t know. People on the radio especially on NPR 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 with they claim to know for sure. Do that air on the side of caution talk should not be cheap.
- Don’t equate your experience with their’s. If their talking about when they lost a family member don’t talk about when you lost a family member. If they talked about the trouble they have at work don’t tell them about how much you hate your job. It is not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual and more importantly when you are listening it is not about you. You do not need to take that moment to prove how amazing you are, or how much you suffered. Somebody once asked Stephen Hawking once what is your IQ? He said “I have no idea people that talk about their IQ are losers!” Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.
- Try not to repeat yourself is condescending and it’s really boring and we tend to do it a lot. Especially in work conversations and conversations with our kids. We have a point to make so just keep on rephrasing it over and over. Don’t do that!
- Stay out of the weeds. Frankly don’t care about the years the names and the dates all those details that you’re struggling to come up with in your mind they don’t care. What they care about is you. They care about what you are like what you have in common, so forget the details leave them out.
- This is not the last one but is the most important one listen I cannot tell you how many really important people have said that listening is perhaps the most thing number one most important skill to develop. Buddha said, if your mouth is open you’re not learning.” Calvin Koolidge said, “no man listened his way out of a job.” Why do we not listen to each other? The number one reason would rather talk and when I’m talking I’m in control, I don’t have to hear anything I am not interested in, I am the Center of attention, I can bolster my own ego. Yet there is another reason, we get distracted and the average person talks at about 225 words per minute but we can listen up to 500 words per minute. Our mind are filling in the space where the other 275 words can be. I know it takes effort and energy to actually pay attention to someone, yet if you cannot do that you are not in a conversation. You end up as two people shouting out words in barley related sentences in the same place. You have to listen to one another. Stephen Kuddy said, “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.”
- “A good conversation is like a miniskirt, short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject.” No laugh out loud, but this all boils down to “Be interested in other people.” Everyone has some amazing special something about them. One of the great thing I have learned is to keep my mouth shut as often as I can, I keep my mind open and I am always prepared to be amazed and I am never disappointed. You guys reading this do the same thing. Go out watch people, talk to people, find people that inspire your being. Listen to them and most importantly be prepared to be amazed. Good Luck