A good listening question, especially if you talk too much

September 10, 2012 by Joshua
in Blog, Tips

Anyone who knows me knows my tendency to talk too much. I find most people seem prone to talk too much in certain situations. So how do you learn to reign yourself in?

People usually don’t like when someone else dominates a conversation, so it helps to learn when you are talking too much and how to stop doing so. Talking a lot doesn’t necessarily mean talking too much. Some people tell amazing stories and you don’t want them to stop talking, or give you fascinating histories or information you enjoy learning.

Anyway, I just finished a conversation that ended with what I considered a great question I plan to use again. I considered it helpful, though it exposes a weakness.

Toward the end of a long conversation in which I said well more than half the words, I asked my friend (this isn’t the great question) if I talked too much, too little, or just right. The question is better for improving your communications skills than nothing, but won’t help that much. It asks the other person to evaluate you. People feel sensitive about judging and saying things that might make another feel bad, so they tend to respond vaguely and not criticize as much as they could.

In this case my friend said I did okay. She said I talked a lot but that it was interesting and she liked hearing it. I thought I was interesting too, so I tended to agree, but I knew my bias. So how could I tell if she thought I talked too much and just didn’t say it. I don’t want people to avoid me. I want them to like spending time with me.

Then I asked they question I thought more useful:

Did I listen too much, too little, or just right?

This time she paused and thought a bit more than the first time. The question certainly isn’t a regular one, so it forced her to think more. More to the point, it got to the more important point for her of how much she felt involved.

Here she said I could have listened more and it was easier for her to say because I solicited the question. Even if I had told the best stories ever, I’m sure she would have enjoyed the conversation more if she had felt more listened to.

Is it the most important best question ever? No, but I thought it wasn’t bad.

It still asked her to evaluate, which has its problems. I followed up with feedforward, which I recommend, as always, to overcome some of those problems, and got some great advice and accountability

I hope it helps.

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