Are you having a conversation or delivering a monologue? According to Mark Goulston, MD, business psychiatrist and author of Just Listen, there are three phases of conversation. In the first, we impart relevant, useful, interesting information. In the second, we “get on a roll” where it feels good to keep talking, but we don't notice the other party is barely listening. The third stage occurs when we lose track of what we were saying and the other person loses interest.
“Unfortunately,” says Goulston, “rather than reengaging your innocent victim by urging them to talk and then listening to them, the usual impulse is to talk even more in an effort to regain their interest.” This happens not only because humans have a hunger to be listened to, but also because talking about ourselves releases the pleasure hormone dopamine. Gabbers become addicted to that pleasure.
Goulston recommends a strategy called the Traffic Light rule, shared with him by fellow coach Marty Nemko. In the first 20 seconds of talking, your light is green as long as your statement is relevant to the conversation. But the light turns yellow for the next 20 seconds. At the 40-second mark, your light is red. Although there are times you want to run that red light and keep talking, it’s worth considering stopping. According to Goulston, “filibustering is usually a conversational turn-off, and may result in both people deteriorating into alternating monologues.”
Have you ever been aware that your listener has started to tune you out, and what do you do about it? To join the conversation, click "comments" above.
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