I love my cell phone and my iPad; couldn’t live without them now! You? At the same time, I’m noticing that instead of adding to the numerous ways we can communicate, many times these great devices compete or even replace them. We have forgotten the sound of the voice, the personal touch, and the power of having a conversation one on one. More than ever, relationships make the difference in productivity, sales, and happiness.
The critics of society deplore the decline of the art of conversation, and the experts are inclined to blame the gadgets of our cyber-era. Let’s see how we can still have quality conversations and bring more collaboration into the workplace and with our families.
- Put your phone away and be totally present. That’s an obvious one to start with. Right? But I mean REALLY put your phone AWAY. That’s the first step in quality listening, contributing to an inspiring conversation and showing you are there with them enjoying the moment.
- Ask way more questions. Many of us are prone to making statements, sharing our own experiences in answer to their examples, or doing small talk when we could be asking more and better questions. Questions help you learn about the other person, they help you understand them better and they create great opportunities to connect on a deeper level. Be careful not to sound like Inspector Columbo; instead ask open ended questions like journalists do (What, When, How, Where, etc.). For example, rather than asking someone if they were angry (closed question), ask them how they felt about the situation. You will get richer content and more interesting information.
- Adjust your communication style to the other person. If you learned about the DISC model with me, you know it is wise to adjust your communication style for a moment to “meet” the other person where they are. I don’t mean that you should become someone else, but if the person in front of you is a reserved type and you are more of an extrovert, please slow down for a moment.
- Avoid getting lost in details. Nobody wants to know the exact time you got off the bus, and the name of each street you walk by to find the store you were looking for, and the number of people at the cash counter. Too much details gets really boring and make the other person lose interest. Keep in mind the big picture, think of the message you want to communicate, and be brief. Spend more time listening than talking.
- Become the greatest listener. Stephen Covey said “Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Practice listening in a way that will help you learn about the other person, understand who they are and where they want to go. Be prepared to be amazed by what you will discover of them. It’s not necessary to like everything you hear, or everybody you have a conversation with, but can you learn something from every conversation.
- Suspend judgment. This is the art of not judging or internally critiquing what someone is saying. Instead, open your mind; be ready to reassess your beliefs because of the new learning that’s taking place when you have a true present and profound conversation.
We have more capacity to connect than we think. It’s not because electronic devices are very useful and present in our lives, that we should eliminate the art of conversation. In our century, listening is one of the most important and powerful skill you can develop.
Buddha once said: “A dog is not considered a good dog because he is a good barker. A man is not considered a good man because he is a good talker.” So let’s practice our communication and listening skills so we can be inspired by others.
Have a great week!
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