Let me know if this has happened to you.
You have something you want to tell someone.
You wait for the right opportunity. Then you engage in conversation.
After pleasantries you start telling them your story.
But then part way into your story something sparks in their brain and they interject with something like:
That is just like when…
They before you know what’s happened they’re telling you a story about themselves. They think they’re adding to the conversation, but you’re left just feeling a little bewildered and even hurt.
They never bothered to let you finish. And their story doesn’t even really have to do with what you were talking about.
The more I got irritated when people did this to me the more I started paying attention to myself. I figured if others were doing it to me then I was probably guilty of doing it to others.
Here have been a few things I’ve tried to do to catch myself and to improve my conversations.
Acknowledging The Thought And Then Giving Focus Again
This is kind of a mindfulness technique.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid thoughts popping into your head.
So it’s okay to let them come into your head.
Hey, when you’re having conversations it’s natural for thoughts to trigger in your mind. Their story will trigger something that happened to you.
The trick is recognizing your thoughts, but not speaking it. Let is pass. Then focus back on what the person is telling you.
If you feel you’ve missed a detail ask for clarification.
Wait Until They’re Done Before Jumping In
This can be a little tricky. It’s difficult to know when someone is done telling you what they want to tell you.
But a good general rule, at least in my experience, is that we tend to jump in too early. It’s better to wait too long than to risk jumping in too early and cutting the other person off.
They won’t feel good if you cut them off. They’ll feel cheated. And they definitely won’t be likely to listen to what you have to tell them.
But the truth is that your story or thought may be interesting. It may add to the conversation. It may help the other person in their situation.
But wait until they’re done. Wait your turn.
Tell Your Story In The Form Of A Question
With that being said, part of good conversation is making sure you understand.
Instead of hijacking things and just telling your own story, pose it like a question.
Once the person is finished say something like:
I think I understand. It reminds me of this situation. Is that kind of what you mean?
This keeps the conversation about the other person. You’re not making it about you. You’re using your story as a way to clarify that you understand what’s going on.
This makes the other person feel good. It shows that you’re listening and that you care about what they’re saying.
Keep It Short
Nobody really likes a long story. In trying to become a better storyteller I’ve learned that people just lose interest after awhile.
If you’re trying to tell someone something interesting and entertaining it’s good to keep it short. I guess that’s the definition of anecdote.
A “short” story or account of an event.
This is something I’ve noticed. I notice people that are really good listeners that avoid this. And then I notice others that kind of hijack conversations when the other person was hoping they would listen.
I’m working on it with myself and the conversations I’m in. I know I’m not perfect with it yet.
And if you’re looking to have better conversations and to be a better friend then hopefully the tips above will help you.
Now I’ll have to flip this around.
Most of what we have to tell people they really don’t care about. George Carlin was right.