The most basic principle I have to share with you about conversation is: ”They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” I believe it’s the most important axiom you can learn in conversing with effectiveness. Honestly, if you just take keep this quote in mind whenever you engage in conversation with others, you will be way ahead of the game, every single time.
It’s so simple, but it seems that people forget, don’t care, or simply don’t understand how their words fail to have the impact they desire: it’s their attitude when they speak that makes a negative impression, often even more than the words they’re saying. Attitude IS everything, and I’m alluding to an attitude of kindness and fairness, not a badass bossy approach to talking with others.
A conversation can generally be described as communication that takes place between two or more individuals. Within this context, there’s a very specific etiquette: one person talks while the other(s) listen. Effectual listening is just as important as being an interesting or persuasive speaker.
But imagine a listener’s dismay when he or she is patiently trying to take in all that the speaker is saying, when the speaker seems to have little or no intention of giving that listener a chance to respond. My guess is that you don’t need to use your imagination in recognizing this scenario: it happens all too often. And when it does, even if the listener doesn’t overtly object, the speaker has probably lost his or her interest, as well as respect.
The hard truth is that whenever one of us has the opportunity to express our concepts, opinions, or point of view, we quickly lose our audience when we become absorbed in ourselves, to the exclusion of anyone who happens to hear us speak. When we become self-aggrandizing, self-righteous or self-centered in any way, when we presume to give advice with certainty that our wisdom outdistances that of the person or people we’re advising, or indeed when we assume we have the last word on any topic, our audience is not only lost, but may be hurt or offended. At the very least it finds us to be a bore and probably a bully, since we’ve abused valuable time, dominated the conversation, and shown a total disregard for possible injured feelings.
Frankly, I find it difficult to believe any speaker can be ignorant in all these respects. And yet I’ve witnessed it time and again. Maybe it’s my curse for being a “good listener.” The speaker will interpret my good manners as license to filibuster what might have been a perfectly good exchange between or among equal participants.
I’ll say this once. A conversation is not by definition a pissing contest, but I’ve seen both men and women talking at one another as though that’s the prescribed intent. A conversation could better be described as a negotiation, at best a pleasant one, in which the shared outcome of preference is win-win, not win-lose!
Since those of you who are reading this are women who walk the talk, I’m likely preaching to the choir. So please take this as my way of empathizing with you when you find yourself listening and then listening some more…or just take my venting as a gentle reminder: I need to remind myself sometimes not to join in this crass competition, but rather to keep my cool and consider the source.