#8 - How to have good conversations
Mindful communication is a shared responsibility
I have seen a couple of tweets lately along the lines of "hey, we are bad listeners, and here's how to get better".
The premise is that we generally have two intentions by the time we speak:
Venting / just want to get things out of our chests
Looking for advice
And the argument is that there are two common communication problems:
Listeners don't know which mode to switch to (understanding vs fixing)
Listeners don't know how to do each mode properly
We would give advice when the other person wants to just vent, and we don't know how to listen effectively.
Let’s now look at each problem and try to find ourselves a good working solution.
The general sentiment / consensus is to put the responsibility on the listener.
When you're not sure which, just ask: Do you need advice or just want to vent?
Like a fighting video game, let's keep it interesting and attack this from all possible angles. Let's also solve this problem from the other end.
As a speaker, we also have responsibility. We can get better at asking and setting the expectations before we speak.
As a speaker: Make your intention clear (first to yourself and then to others) and then ask. I just need to vent vs I need some suggestions.
As a listener: Ask which mode do you need me to be in? Do you need advice or just want to vent?
Just ask. No one is mindreader. You can't even read your own mind most of the time.
Mindful communication is a shared responsibility.
Get better listeners by being a better speaker. Listen better by asking.
Slightly related, this is another good communication hack:
Ask ask ask.
I have a couple of go-to thoughts to hold by the time I'm listening:
Why is he/she telling me this?
What does this person need?
Absorb, don't evaluate
How can I help?
There's something there, how can I help them share more?
A couple of my favorite pieces about art of listening, conversations, and asking questions:
PodcastNotes on interview with Celeste on The Knowledge Project podcast
Brandon Stanton on The Tim Ferriss Show: Brandon Stanton – The Story of Humans of New York and 25M+ Fans (#321)
Cal Fussman on The Tim Ferriss Show: The Interview Master: Cal Fussman and the Power of Listening (#145)
This is pretty solid checklist as well:
Hi there! Almost all activities in life revolve around 1) getting things into our heads, 2) out of our heads, and 3) hopefully across into someone else's head.
We learn, we think, and we communicate.
How are you managing these activities right now? Are you doing any deliberate practice to get better at them?
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Good conversations are rare these days but we often forget that we can create them. So remember to share this with friends and colleagues who can relate to spark meaningful discussions and generate shared experience.