I recently sat down with an old acquaintance. Throughout the meeting, the acquaintance didn’t ask me a single question. Actually, she did say she wanted to hear more about something but never circled back to follow up. Instead, she talked for about 45 more minutes.
At the end of the meeting, I felt like we had just had a one-way conversation.
When I have one-way conversations like this, I always wonder:
- Is the person not interested in hearing how I’m doing or what I have to say?
- Is the person being overly polite and waiting for me to offer something to say?
- Or is the person just that self-involved?
I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, but regardless of the reason, I usually come away from these conversations feeling like I hope to never have a conversation with that person again!
And sadly, I don’t think that’s the intention of the other person.
So I write this post in earnest not judgement. You may not know you’re guilty of having one-way conversations.
To everyone, I ask a few simple questions:
- Have you had a conversation recently in which you spoke more than 1/2 or 2/3 of the time?
- Have you had a conversation recently in which the other person asked you more questions than you asked back?
- If yes to either of the above, does this happen more often than not?
If the latter applies to you, I’ve got three simple conversation tips for you to consider. These tips will make you a better listener, friend, colleague, manager, husband, wife, etc…
1. For Every Question You Get, Ask At Least One Question Back.
Conversations should be like a tennis match – we take turns. You ask one question, I talk, I ask one question, you talk. In some cases, it’s important to ask questions as an indicator that you’re actually interested in what the other person has to say. Some people don’t share unless they’re asked or feel that you’re interested.
If you’re dominating a conversation, it probably means you haven’t asked a question in awhile.
2. Apply the Two-Second Rule for Conversations.
I like this rule a lot. It’s a really simple and effective tip, that applies to both listeners and speakers.
It was posted on a site with lots of men’s dating advice! (See: Three Easy Ways to Drastically Improve Your Charisma.) The author recommends waiting two seconds before responding in a conversation, which is great advice for those who have a tendency to interrupt and not let others finish their thoughts.
On the other hand, if you’re the speaker, take those two-second pauses to give the other person a chance to add or share without feeling like he/she is interrupting you.
3. If You’ve Been Speaking Awhile, It’s Time to Signal You’re Done.
There are rare situations when it makes sense to have a one-way conversation. Most of the time, we prefer being part of a two-way conversation!
Observe. Listen to yourself. If you’ve been speaking for awhile, and the other person hasn’t, it’s probably a good time to take turns and play the listener.
Give signals that you’re done speaking. Asking questions or taking pauses (above) are great signals. You may not realize it, but some people wait for the right time to start talking. We feel rude changing the topic before we feel like you’re done.
That’s it – hope you enjoyed this break from the usual Marketo and career talk!