Please Stop Waiting for Your Turn to Speak

When teaching the English language to foreign students I often use the phrases, “I can hear” and “I can listen,” interchangeably. Often I’ll say them together in the hopes that my students will understand one of the two verbs and understand the sentence. But actually, these verbs are not interchangeable in the slightest. There’s a vast difference between hearing and listening. I like to think of hearing as passive and listening as active. We can walk through the park on a spring morning and hear the birds in the trees as we go about our business or we can stop and actually listen to their chirrups and tweets.

A few weeks ago I was at a social gathering and got talking to this guy. He was talking about the architecture in France and how it had been influenced and had influenced other areas of Europe. I asked a few questions, taking a genuine interest and when he had finished speaking I offered up a little bit of insight about the architecture I had seen during my trip to Budapest. From the moment I started speaking I could see that he was chomping at the bit, ready to keep talking. He might have been hearing me, but he was not listening, just waiting for his next opportunity to speak. Sure enough, no sooner had I finished my sentence, he was off again, continuing as though I had said nothing. I’m pretty sure I could have said,

and he wouldn’t have skipped a beat.

Now, this is an extreme circumstance and chances are you’ve hopefully not run into anyone on this level! But I think we’ve all been guilty of being so eager to put our point across that we only “skim-listen” to what our conversational partner is saying.

Active Listening is a term often used within conflict resolution and counselling, particularly within the workplace. But there’s nothing to say that we cannot apply it to our own everyday lives. There are various physical signs of active listening that counsellors implement into their sessions, but that’s not what I want to focus on here as some of them can be seen to be very formulaic and a little bit creepy! (For example, some resources suggest certain head positions and mirroring of the speaker. Personally, I feel this is taking things a bit far and one step away from just trying to look like you care about what is being said!)

As we’ve established, most people love to talk about themselves. By asking a question, you enable them to do that and become their new best friend! Seriously though, asking a question shows a genuine interest and naturally leads to a better conversation! You may even find that your conversation partner mimics your behaviour and asks you a question or two in response.

This is very similar to asking a question and can be combined with a question. Sum up what you’ve been told in your own words (it can and should be short… This isn’t a presentation!) This shows that you’ve been listening, understanding and taking a genuine interest in what the speaker has been talking about.

Hopefully, you’ll find by doing these two things that you’ll naturally take more of an interest in what others have to say, and you’ll learn more while becoming an Expert Conversation Haver…

Please note that these are not ‘tricks’ to make people think you are listening to them! These are tools to help you to be a genuinely better listener and so try to be genuine with them. Don’t ask a question because you think you should, ask a question to further your knowledge and because you want to know more!

Good luck and happy conversationing!

Please Stop Waiting for Your Turn to Speak

Research & References of Please Stop Waiting for Your Turn to Speak|A&C Accounting And Tax Services

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