Inhale and exhale. Give and take. Lead and support. The challenge of trying to find balance is something many people can relate to. It seems to be lacking in so many encounters and everyday interactions.
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation that seemed all too one-sided?
Maybe the other person wasn’t giving you any physical cues – not making eye contact or giving any indication that suggested they were listening.
Maybe it was a lack of verbal cues – talking so much that you weren’t able to get a word in and it was clear they were not interested in what you had to say or if you were interested in what they had to say.
This can be frustrating and, unfortunately, it seems to be more and more common.
We cannot make someone else act a certain way. We can only try to maintain our own thoughts and actions. If we’re looking for change – for more balance in our interactions, leading by example and finding ways to respond to those who don’t exercise balanced conversation is something we can do.
I believe a beautiful conversation is made up of three things: truly listening, communicating in a way that supports the conversation and those involved, and leaving room for pause and reflection. I’ll go over each in more detail below:
There’s a difference between talking to someone (or at someone) and speaking with someone. In order to speak with someone we must allow space for the other person to contribute and they must do the same in return. Waiting for someone to finish talking to cue your turn is not listening.
Actively understanding and acknowledging what the other person has to say is extremely important and goes hand in hand with the next point…
Support the Conversation and Those Involved
On top of truly listening, when you do express your input, making it relevant, inclusive, and applicable to those involved will lead to a more enjoyable conversation for all. Supporting the conversation is all about staying open – open to ideas, considerations, and new knowledge you may gain regarding the situation, the other person, or yourself.
It’s about sharing your knowledge and thoughts in a way that allows you and others to learn and expand upon them. And as always, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Simply saying something or having the final word is not necessary – sometimes less is more.
Leave Room for Pause and Reflection
This one is huge and a lot of people confuse it for a skewed version of listening – the “waiting for the other person to stop talking” that we talked about earlier with a touch of “half a second of silence before jumping back in.”
Leaving room for pause and reflection is all about allowing both, or whatever number, of you to be silent and reflect personally on what is being said, keeping in mind that sides of a conversation – like people – may move at different speeds. It is respecting your thoughts and the thoughts of others by allowing time for them to accumulate and gather. It’s giving everyone a chance to really take in what is being said and then add their contribution.
Have you noticed an imbalance in conversation before? What happened? How did it make you feel? Share in the comments below!