One of the activities I use in my training programs is a listening exercise. Put into pairs, one person is the “speaker” and the other is the “listener.” For a full five minutes, the “speaker” shares a subject that he or she is comfortable talking about. The “listener,” simply listens without interruption. The listener is allowed to ask only three questions during the timeframe, and these questions are to draw more information from the person speaking. Then they switch roles.
It’s fascinating to debrief this activity. Although they might feel a little uncomfortable at first, most participants find if refreshing to have the opportunity to chat without the fear of someone cutting them off. Through non-verbal communication – eye contact, head nodding, smiling, and the few questions, they feel heard – many for the first time in a long time. Because of this exchange, the two people feel a real connection with each other and a few of the participants exchange contact information and stay in touch.
When you are in conversation with someone, is it a true dialogue or is it two monologues? When we take the time to really listen, to nonverbally encourage the other person to keep talking, and to keep our minds open (and not try to figure out what we’re going to say next), we create better, stronger relationships.
You have two ears and one mouth – try to use them in that 2:1 ratio (listening versus talking).