Conversations, the productive ones, take skill. I had a friend who always structured our time together by saying I get the first 20 minutes to tell you everything then you get your turn. We had the structure set up so I didn’t have to respond, I just needed to listen. I really listened and learned instead of trying to manipulate the discussion. Then I would update her with my stuff. After we each caught up we would discuss the highlights. The most productive conversations occur when true listening is involved. Listening takes skills, one has to be able to quiet thoughts, emotions, and reactions. It is about being present in that moment not distracted by anything; phones, TV, other people or the distracting thoughts in your own mind. Take time to process what the other person said and ask clarifying questions, then you can respond thoughtfully. When we walk away from a conversation and all we can think about is our response and have learned nothing about the other person then what was the point?
My dad always told me if you want to get a conversation started just ask the other person about their life. People love to talk about themselves. When they do be present and open to listen and truly learn. You don’t have to agree with their ideas or positions but it is still important to understand and meet people where they are in life.
Practice these listening skills today in your next conversation. After the conversation is over review it in your mind and notice if you learned something. Make your conversations about learning instead of talking and it will change your communication skills for the better.