When you talk a lot but don’t say anything …

I saw this movie once, called “The Princess Diaries”. I like Anne Hathaway, I like romantic comedies and I like cats, so the movie was perfect for me. But I also like it when a movie makes me think about stuff. In this case it was this one line that got me thinking for years: And then I realized, how many stupid times a day I say the word “I”.

I say the word “I” numerous times a day (in the last few sentences I used the word 6, no wait, 7 times already). Why? Well, I guess it’s because when I don’t know what to add to a conversation, I tell about something that happened to me that can be linked to the subject. Afterwards I feel really bad and start wondering why people never tell me to shut up.

So what is it that makes people like to talk about themselves?

Why this subject all of a sudden? Today one of my best friends told me something about myself that made my cheeks turn red because of the shame I felt. It had to do with me talking about, well, me a lot of times sometimes. Research led by Diana Tamir shows that the same brain circuits that are triggered by money and food are also triggered by self-disclosure, even when it is something as insignificant as telling others whether you like Harry Potter or not.

So if you’re a bit like me, finding yourself going on about yourself sometimes, these tips might help you out:

Talk less. Add a small gap of silence between the end of the speaker’s thoughts and your response. It will minimize your tendency to interrupt and may encourage the speaker to open up more.

Be approachable & receptive. Genuinely want to listen. Authentic sincerity creates an atmosphere of trust. Be receptive to the speaker’s needs – he/she might just need you to listen, and not try to fix his problem (sometimes being listened to is enough). Listen with a non-judgmental attitude. Allow the speaker to fully explain his/her position, problem etc., before jumping in with your reply. Don’t interrupte, it will give the speaker a sense of importance and a potential self-esteem boost. Look at the speaker with interest, but not with a quizzical expression that may imply something is wrong.

Give the speaker your complete attention. Stop whatever you’re doing and completely focus on the discussion (eliminate distractions. Turn off your email, send all calls to voicemail, and close the door to limit outside distractions, if necessary). Face the speaker directly and make frequent eye contact to let him know that what he’s saying is important to you. Acknowledge key points with a nod, smile or brief comment  (like: “I see,” “I understand,” “right,” etc.) but be careful to not be too repetitive with your comments, as it can make you seem insincere.

Maintain appropriate body language. Make eye contact (but don’t stare) and lean slightly forward to show your interest. Face the speaker directly. Stand or sit close enough to the speaker to show your interest, but not so close as to make him/her uncomfortable. Gently nod your head to acknowledge a point and encourage the speaker to continue. Change your facial expression (a smile or a concerned look) to show you understand. Adjust your chair so you’re eye level with the speaker to avoid creating an atmosphere of superiority. Pay attention to the speaker’s body language. His/her tone or volume of voice, facial expressions, body movements and gestures may have a different meaning than his/her words (he.she says he/she’s excited about a project, but speaks in a flat tone while sitting back in his/her chair).

Sincerely work to understand the message. Listen with the genuine intent to understand what the speaker is communicating. Make a mental note of questions to ask when the speaker has finished sharing his/her thoughts, so you don’t interrupt (the speaker may clarify the issue hisself/herself by the time he/she’s done speaking). Focus on the message rather than the delivery or choice of words. The latter can distract you from the value of what’s being said. To eliminate any misunderstandings, check yourself by rephrasing what you heard (“So you’re saying…”).

Ask relevant, open-ended questions to clarify and learn more (“What do you mean by that?” or “When you say…”)

For anyone who’s interessted in more information, you might like to visit http://www.talklesslistenmore.com/pdf/ebookletsep.pdf from which I got most of the information myself.

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