Communication Essentials: How to Balance Listening and Speaking
Are you a talker or a listener? A bit of both? Being a good conversationalist is about being interesting and interested, and knowing how to balance these roles during an exchange with another person or group. Any thorough list of communication essentials includes learning how to balance listening and speaking. Here are a few tips for communicating effectively through a more balanced exchange.
1. Express your ideas confidently and clearly.
Not only is it important to express yourself confidently and clearly in order to engage your audience, but it also helps you become a better listener as you can rest assured that you’ve said your piece in a way you’re satisfied with, which makes it easier to turn it over to others.
2. Avoid too much detail too early.
Many of us tend to “go down the rabbit hole,” diving into detail or telling a lengthy story when time or context only really allows for a general overview. Keep in mind that listeners want to know the bullet points first; you can go into further detail later. It also shows respect for your conversational partner’s attention if you stay concise and only dive deeper when appropriate.
3. Listen to build trust and earn respect.
The educator John Gardner said, “Everyone wants to be interesting, but the vitalizing thing is to be interested. It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Many of us feel vulnerable when we stay quiet and listen to others because it means we’re no longer busy proving ourselves, earning others’ respect, showing how interesting we are based on our skills or what we know. But we’ll earn others’ respect perhaps more quickly by listening to them. Listening builds trust. When we listen to others, they’re more likely to want to listen to us.
4. Ask people questions.
The world needs more people who ask questions and genuinely care about the answers. One of the biggest mistakes in a conversational exchange is pouring forth information or answering other people’s questions without giving back by allowing them to do the same. The older we get, the more we have to say, and the more important it becomes to listen as though we were children.
5. Be aware of different conversational styles.
A balanced conversation may mean something different depending on the person or culture. In some cultures, it may be normal to wait for someone to speak for several minutes before you spend several minutes saying your own piece; in other cultures, it may be more of a back-and-forth exchange that’s expected. Be aware of your context and circumstances before you assume that your preferred method is the best approach. Taking it one step further: have a quick chat about the conversational parameters and what approach each party feels comfortable with.
What strategies do you have for improving the quality of a conversation? Share your own communication essentials in the comments section below.