The problem was, once I got rolling, it was hard to find the exit lane. So, even though I knew I needed to shut my mouth I couldn’t seem to wrap up my point. I somehow tried to extricate from this awkward moment with, you guessed it, more words. Devon’s eyes glazed over. I was embarrassed. Has this ever been you?
In a world with more words than any of us could ever consume, I think many of our societal ills would be solved if each of us were able to just listen. If you’re like me, you’ve heard this all before. You know the old adage “people listen to people who listen.” I have been told also that God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we talk. We all know this, right? But do we live by these principles?
For me, I can (at times) be on my best behavior. When I’m meeting with someone I highly respect and want to make the very best impression on, I make a conscious effort to listen. But somehow, in my familiar relationships, those people I am closest to, I get lazy and revert to being the blabbermouth. So, I realize I have the skills to do exactly what I propose but, out of a lack of self-discipline, I fall into old habits. I know how to do. I just don’t do it.
For those of you like me, I do believe that much of our over-talking tendencies are merely poor habits. So, let me suggest a few strategies for us both to employ. And yes, I am talking to myself. You know how I like to talk.
First, let the other person talk first. No matter how funny of a story you have, the frustration you want to unload, or interesting insight you have been pondering, let them talk. Lean in as many business books suggest. Let them know you are listening. Repeat a portion of what you’ve heard, so they know you are getting it. Look them in the eye. Smile (if appropriate). Then, do this: Ask permission before you speak. “May I share something I’ve been thinking?” “Would you be interested in hearing a funny story?” Or give just a few words of introduction and see if they have an interest. “I’ve had a bad day.” If they ask for more, give it. If they don’t, was it really that important?
Look forward to seeing you soon. And if we are both taking my advice, it may begin with a long awkward silence. But I think that would be okay.