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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How to Speak So Others Will Listen

     One of the most difficult efforts in communications for those who have little patience for idle chatter is getting stuck listening to someone who has little of substance to say.  Since verbal communications require action from both sides--one to speak and the other to listen--speakers can help listeners tune in by saying something worthwhile.  For a speaker to be taken seriously, he or she needs to have more than a fleeting encounter with a meaningful topic.  Mundane talk about a hobby, complaints about the annoying person at work (who doesn't have one of those?), boasting about personal accomplishments, and telling humorless jokes are not time-valued topics.  Today most people have very little spare time.  All the more reason we'd rather dart in the other direction when we see Boring Brenda headed our way than to get stuck in the hallway feigning interest.
      So what's in a substantive conversation?  How do we know what topics will appeal to others?  Well, for people you know well, you should talk about things that interest them.  If it's at work and you want to get your boss's attention, talk about what matters to him or her.  Is it the progress of a project?  Is it the outcome of a pilot program?  Is it today's sales numbers?  What's important?  If it's a coworker, is it clarification on a process that confounds her or asking how her child's doctor's appointment turned out?  At home, is it your spouse's tough day that needs to be talked out or your daughter's spat with a friend?  What engages the listener is a subject that matters to them.
      If the topic is more pertinent to you, then find a way to broach it so that others will give you the time you need.  Get to the point and be brief.  If you're one of those sociable people who just has to tell your coworker in the cubicle next to you about the 5k you ran this weekend, then take only about a minute.  Don't overwhelm them with every tiny detail from the time you got your race number until the time you crossed the finish line.  Just the highlights are sufficient.
      Bottom line is, we're all multitasking, overworked, information overloaded scanners.  We're trying to find a sliver of time for ourselves just to stave off impending burnout.  We have become very good at tuning out the benign stuff and being vigilant about what matters.  Make sure that whatever you have to talk about falls in the latter.