Shut Up!

Posted on February 22, 2007. Filed under: Blog--All categories, Management development |

I was in a conversation the other day that was really frustrating. The person asked me what I thought about an issue that had been raised. Since he asked, I assumed he really wanted me to tell him what I thought. However, as soon as I started to relay my point of view he interrupted me to explain what he’d meant and to explain what I meant. I realized at that point he wasn’t interested in what I thought; he was interested in monopolizing the conversation.

These types of “conversations” really bug me because they aren’t conversations at all! Rather they come across as opportunities that have been engineered by the other person for the other person to talk ad nauseum on a topic of which they feel themselves experts. Not. And even if they were experts, their habit of monopolizing the conversation is so repellent no one would want to ask their opinion anyway!

Okay, I’ve said it. Now, what do we do about it? I’m big on the self-awareness component of responsible communication. We must monitor ourselves to see if we are the person described in the paragraphs above. Sure, each of us has topics upon which we could discourse for hours–because they interest us and because we have lots of information about them. But just because we could doesn’t mean we should! Assess your conversation partner’s level of interest in your topic:

  • If they aren’t asking questions or giving their point of view, most likely they are wishing they were somewhere else.
  • If they are backing away from you while you are talking, most likely they are trying to move somewhere else!
  • If they are looking at their watch, they are hoping it’s time to be somewhere else.
  • If they are speaking in one-word answers or giving clipped responses, they are trying to disengage so they can do something else.

Let’s be honest: we rarely think we are the ones who are the irritating conversation partners. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume we are. Let’s make a conscious choice to be less irritating and more engaging. Pay attention to the clues and adjust the conversation–for the sake of their sanity as well as our own!

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