Have you ever been in a conversation like this?
Person 1: So how did you get started in your business?
Person 2: Well I..
Person 1: Because I heard that you got started because of a cousin or something?
Person 2: Well it was my brother actually, and…
Person 1: Oh that’s right. Your brother had been in the business already and then you volunteered to help him out for awhile.
Person 2: Yeah.
Maybe you’ve been on the receiving end of this kind of exchange. Maybe, perhaps, you were “Person 1” in some scenario. In any case, I am pretty certain you’ve seen something like this before.
Why does this happen? I think some people are just hungry to show what they know. Even when they are the ones asking the questions, they feel like they have to be the first to respond. You’ll often find in these scenarios that if the person does stop talking, giving the impression that they’re listening, they still will demonstrate that they weren’t paying attention at all.
This is not just a “real world” experience. You see a lot of this sort of behavior online. The best example in my experience is “TL:DR.” This stands for “Too long, didn’t read,” and people post that abbreviation before commenting on the article they just noted they hadn’t read. People will comment on a post before reading either the full post or commented that preceded theirs.
You might think that this kind of thing is no big deal. In the grand scheme of things there are worse happenings to weigh, of course. However, a lot can go wrong in the wake of only listening so that you can respond. Here are a few examples:
-> You may miss the opportunity to learn something new in your effort to push forward what you already know
-> You may end up looking foolish as you ask a question that has already been answered
-> You may come off as rude or pushy
-> You might offend someone by alluding to something they have already hinted they don’t want to talk about
The list goes on.
Sometimes people say that they interrupt because they get so excited about a response they have, and they’re worried they’ll forget it. That’s understandable to a certain extent, but again, that’s emphasizing your own contributions and ignoring the person to whom you’re speaking. If you are that worried about forgetting what you want to say, make sure you have some way to record your thoughts without interjecting. Maybe that means you bring a notebook with you wherever you go, or maybe that means you just type a single word into your notes app so that you can jog your memory.
The best thing, really, though, is to try to listen to hear, not to respond. Absorb what someone is saying to you without an agenda. Allow the pressure to say something clever in response to just roll off your back. You don’t always need to be the wise one, the clever one, or the most knowledgeable. Sometimes you can just sit there and listen, and maybe even learn.
Do you listen to listen or do you listen to respond? What’s your take on this issue? We’d love to hear from you! We’re listening.
Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/3133347219 via Creative Commons