A wise person once said that you can’t learn when you’re talking.
Think about the people you really enjoy having conversations with.
Chances are those people are the best listeners. They let you speak, they ask you questions and they really try to figure out what’s going on with you and along the way help you figure something out about yourself.
I don’t think we often think of our best conversations as being a situation where we express a feeling and someone provides an instant answer. The one providing the answer might think they’ve had a great conversation. They might think that they’ve been a perfect help, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
And I’ve been guilty of doing it.
It’s weird. You’re in a conversation with someone. They’re expressing an issue or challenge in their life and an idea pops in your head. Now all you’re doing is waiting for them to stop talking so you can share your brilliant idea with them. Maybe you don’t even wait for them to stop talking. You hear the problem and they start explaining it a bit more, but you jump right in with the answer.
I’ve been catching myself doing that more lately and it’s bothered me. I see the look in the other person’s eyes when I do that and can tell it’s not what they were looking for.
For myself, patience is big in conversation. I’m trying to be more patient with the people I have conversations with. It can be tricky because today’s world is so wired for efficiency and doing one thing right after another. We don’t take the time to be patient with the person.
It seems to help. When I listen to someone now I try to let ideas and answers pass in my head and get back to focusing on what the person is saying. I try to have patience to let them finish their thought. Then when they do I try to build on what they’re saying not with answers, but with questions.
Usually when someone is telling you about a challenge they’re having they won’t get into all the details with their first explanation. As the listener, it’s really hard to understand the situation unless you know more. So the obvious next step is to ask more questions.
Instead of jumping in with an answer look to find out more about the situation. It will help you understand more about what’s going on, but it will also often help the other person understand what’s going on with themselves.
And that can be a real breakthrough.
Often, when we go to someone with an issue we’re having we aren’t looking for them to provide an answer, but we’re more looking to talk things out and find the answer along the way. It’s kind of finding it for yourself or finding it in a collaborative way.
A great part of life is interacting with others. You can learn so much from being around other people. Everyone has something to contribute and if you’re thirsty to learn about life there seems to be no better way (perhaps experiencing lots of things yourself) than having conversations with others.
So when you’re having conversations with others focus on learning. This will lead to asking more questions and you’ll likely find out more yourself while also helping the other person work through what’s going on with them.
Wait For Their Cue
Eventually some people do want to find out your thoughts on the situation. They might want an answer or they just might want your opinion and your thought. They don’t want an ongoing series of questions.
So while asking questions is good you’re still likely going to need to provide some thoughts. Try to come at this without too much bias for the situation. Try to look at it as someone not involved and not connected to the situation. That can help lead to a good outlook that could help the person that you’re speaking with.
Conversations are an important aspect of life. It’s important for everyone to know how to ask questions when others are expressing something. And it’s important to be able to continue a conversation if you’re talking with someone that only wants to provide answers. You can’t let yourself get frustrated. Try to get things back on track. It can lead to better experiences in life. You’ll learn. You’ll help others and you’ll help yourself.