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Big Ears, Small Mouth

A conversation isn’t a conversation unless both parties exchange. Exchange words, yes…exchange personal feelings, not necessarily.


We are taught from a young age that listening is of the utmost importance. That doesn't make it easy. I still need to make a conscious effort to avoid (1) providing my personal feelings on the topic of hand too early, or worse, (2) relate the person’s thought to me.


Here’s (1) in a nutshell:

Person A: “Boy, oh boy, work was very difficult this week.”

Person B: “That’s too bad. Perhaps next week you should plan your week better. I have this cool iPhone app to help you with that.”


And here’s (2) in a nutshell:

Person A: “Boy, oh boy, work was very difficult this week.”

Person B: “No kidding, my week was bad too. My boss was demanding and I had to work late - just miserable!”


Instead:

Person A: “Boy, oh boy, work was very difficult this week.”

Person B: “I’m sorry to hear that, what made it difficult?”


This represents a simplified example – when reading the above, the right response is blatantly obvious, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy when conversating, at least not for me.


There may (or may not) be a time in the conversation where it is necessary to provide personal insight/feedback, but that time is certainly not before facilitating the discussion such that your partner in conversation can think through the “why” on her or his own - a rare opportunity to assist someone in developing themselves, rather than immediately trying to “help” them.


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