Here it comes. The new year. What will 2017 be like for you? If on your list of resolutions, you resolve to “be a better person” or “get along better with others” or “improve relationships and friendships,” then read on. One of my resolutions is to have excellent conversations. I hope it will be one of yours.
Pay Attention to Conversations
I challenge you in the coming year to focus on your conversations. That’s right. Conversations. This past year, especially the last six months, have been wrought with people talking at each other, rather than with each other. Our behavior of talking at each other has spilled into the workplace. It colors our meetings, business deals, negotiations, and performance reviews. We are so bent on making sure we make our point that we don’t stop until we feel we’ve drilled it into whoever will listen.
So, in the wise words of Bob Newhart in the MAD TV 2001 sketch – STOP IT! Move on or back to having kinder, gentler conversations with cohorts and friends. You will be a better person for it.
Three Steps to Better Conversations
First, I challenge you to listen more – actually, listen. When you engage someone in conversation, take the time to listen to what they have to say. Listen for meaning. Challenge yourself not to be listening to respond. That is, try to catch yourself trying to insert yourself with what you want to say. What are they trying to tell you? If you asked them how their holiday was, listen for one thing to repeat back to them.
Second, listen with empathy. Remember, empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another” (credit: Merriam-Webster). The root of empathy is “in feeling”. So, listen in feeling. What is the other person sharing and conveying? Do you share their joy in their telling you about their latest achievement? Can you relate to the stress they feel about work they need to complete before years’ end? Take time to listen and make a connection.
Lastly, think about what you bring to the conversation. Each time you talk with someone, you have an opportunity to give. Does the person you’re talking with need something from you? Perhaps it’s a bit of validation or acknowledgment for what they experienced. Maybe they just want a chance to tell their story. If their need is deeper and if you’re up for it, ask a few questions and see if there is something you can say or do to help.
Step Back in the Conversation
My advice to you is to stop talking at each other and talk with each other. Step back and ask yourself why you are engaging someone in conversation. Do you have a point to make? Or is it time to listen to the other person, really listen, and hear what they have to say. Take a breath, listen, try to understand the other person, and decide if you have an opportunity to give back.
2017 is rich with opportunity. A new year is a perfect time to think about who we are and how we want to show up. We show up with words and actions. Conversations are important – they are a chance to get to know someone and an opportunity to share who we are. A toast to you and the many wonderful conversations you are going to have next year.