Discerning Whether to Talk or Listen

from Let’s Talk, pages 36-37

Recognizing what you want to achieve in a conversation is key to deciding how much you should talk or listen. You won’t habitually default to talking or listening when you consider what you’re trying to do. At any point, instead of automatically talking or listening, you can ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish right now?”

Talking is appropriate when you want to:

  • Give information. “The next group practice will be at Karol’s house this Tuesday at 4 p.m.”
  • Influence someone. “I think unless Jasmine is nominated for the school board, parents won’t have a strong advocate.”
  • Clarify. “I didn’t mean that Jasmine is the only candidate who can advocate for us—just that she’s the strongest.”
  • Solve a problem. “Just press the red button at the bottom of the unit, and it will start working again.”

Listening is appropriate when you want to:

  • Take in information. The other person has information you’re seeking, and you want to receive it.
  • Understand someone. In addition to taking in their basic information, you can learn what someone feels, how they think, what their point of view is, and what’s important to them, among other things.
  • Build rapport. You can demonstrate interest in the other person and a willingness to consider what they’re saying, both of which help build rapport. And if you don’t listen to them, what are the chances they’ll listen to you?
  • Help someone calm down. When someone is upset, it’s often best to postpone lectures, advice, reassurance, and even encouragement. First just listen as they express how they think and feel. Being heard and understood frequently helps people feel calmer. (You can then offer ideas, suggestions, and supportive words afterward, if appropriate.)

When you consider whether to talk or to listen in a given moment, you can profoundly affect
the outcome of your conversation.

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