We are all doing it, all of the time. Whether we are having an external dialog with a friend, colleague, or family member, or having an internal dialog with ourselves – communication is ongoing.
The fascinating thing about communication is that it never stops! The danger is that we fail to see communication as a muscle that needs constant development.
The Undeveloped Com-Muscle
Have you ever been sitting at a restaurant with a friend, and overheard someone else’s conversation in the booth next to yours? While you’re listening to your friend, you’re also listening to the conversation next to you wondering how it will end! Similarly, have you ever sat down to listen to a sermon or a lecture, and began an inner dialog with yourself at the same time? Who hasn’t?! Or, have you ever been listening to a close friend or spouse as they pour their heart, and at the same time, you found yourself thinking about what you wanted for dinner? (Never mind…don’t answer that!)
There is no such skill as listening to several different people at the same time. In the same way that “multi-tasking” is a proven myth, that you cannot really be doing more than one thing at the same time, the same applies for conversation. While you’re trying to balance two voices – whether a friend and your own, your spouse and the person across the room, or your teacher along with the classmate beside you – you are allowing your communicative muscles to atrophy.
On top of this, we know that our cell phones come packaged with a million different conversations going on at all times. Having our phones handy gives us a convenient escape from where we are, and with whom we are spending time. This is yet another activity that keeps our conversational muscles soft.
Reverse Aging for Com-Muscles
How can we reverse this atrophying effect on our communicative muscles? Here are 3 tips:
- Discipline Your Inner Dialog. If you find yourself drifting into an inner-conversation with yourself while someone is talking to you, SMACK YOURSELF! (OK, maybe not literally). But do whatever you need to do – internally – to reel the focus back in on what the other person is saying.
- Discipline Your Outer Focus. If someone is talking to you, look them in the eyes, nod your head when they make a point, and occasionally make “mm hmm” noises to let him or her know you are tracking. This will help to keep you engaged on the other person, and minimize distractions.
- Ask a Question Before Making a Statement. Questions make people feel special. After the other person is done talking, instead of just replying with a statement, practice asking a question. This keeps the focus on the other person, and will help to keep you engaged on that person as they talk.
***for a dynamic and interactive workshop on communication and conversational excellence in the Bradenton/Sarasota/Tampa area, CLICK HERE for details.***