September 26, 2011
An individual had to pay far more than she had expected simply because she did not read her email entirely. Then she made the cheque out to the wrong name because she did not read the invoice properly. She’s not the only one. I answered a text message too quickly. I read only the first sentence, then sent a reply. Only after I had sent the reply did I realize my text was not necessary. Once I read the entire text message, I realized my reply was actually redundant.
My situation was not quite as serious as the individual who paid more than she had originally thought she would be. But it may have had a negative effect on the person receiving my text. Perhaps she might have thought I was being snarky. Or maybe my text made him feel inferior in some way. I hope not. I did not mean to be. If only I had read the entire text before answering, I would not be left hoping.
As a society, we seem to be falling into the same patterns with our texting and emailing as we do with our conversation. Instead of listening to what the other person is actually saying, often we are formulating a reply. Just as I had formulated the reply to that text before actually reading the entire message. Just as the other individual had formulated an opinion before she actually read the entire email and invoice.
How many times have you caught yourself thinking up a reply while the other person is still speaking? I know I’ve been in many conversations when my reply turns out to be not as appropriate as I would have hoped. Simply because it was formulated before the other person finished speaking. And I have been in many conversations when the other person’s reply simply echoes what I had just said. At those times, I often wonder if the other person was even listening.
I’m sure the other person didn’t mean to devalue our conversation. By their not listening to what I was actually saying, that is exactly what they did: devalue our conversation. Just as I had with that text message.
According to wikihow.com, listening is the most important step out of five in the art of conversation:
“Listen: This is the most important part of any conversation. Pay attention to what is being said. Make acknowledging noises or movements to indicate that you are still listening. A conversation will go nowhere if you are too busy thinking of anything else, including what you plan to say next…
Practice active listening skills. Part of listening is letting the other person know that you are listening. Make eye contact. Nod. Say “Yes,” “I see,” “That’s interesting,” or something similar to give them clues that you are paying attention and not thinking about something else – such as what you are going to say next…”
Thinking about what we plan to say next interferes greatly with any conversation. It also interferes with our ability to respond appropriately. It’s often the quickest way to putting our “feet in our mouths.” That is, saying something inappropriate or downright ignorant.
Humans are social creatures. We need the social atmosphere we find when we connect with others. Conversation is how we connect. Whether that conversation be via speaking, emailing, texting, reading, writing, blogging, twittering, or any other method, it is still a way to connect with another person. But if we have simply rattled off what we think, without actually listening or reading, we have not connected. And the conversation does not accomplish what it is supposed to accomplish: connection between two or more individuals.
Ever wonder why it is so difficult to carry on a conversation with a baby? They do respond; every parent has evidence of their baby responding. But babies can only respond to the level of their development. The conversation becomes one-sided rather quickly. I always found it easier to sing to my baby because talking required appropriate responses, which were not always possible. Or, were not possible for very long.
This is similar to having a conversation with someone who is not responding appropriately to what I am saying. I realize right away that it is a one-sided conversation. Maybe when I find myself in that situation again, I should just start singing. Would that jolt the other person out of their thought processes long enough to participate, even if only to laugh?
For the list of steps to the art of conversation on wikihow.com, click on the following link: http://www.wikihow.com/Have-a-Great-Conversation