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Waiting to Talk Isn’t Listening

“What do you think I should do?”, she asked.

I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d been getting ready to ask about something she’d said earlier in the conversation, but I was lost when she asked me what to do. I had missed a conversational swerve somewhere.

Her first few words had sparked an idea for me, and I was off and running inside my skull, weighing options and making plans. I came up with some really great insights! I was getting ready to tell her about my ideas—but during that whole time, I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was saying.

I was waiting to talk.

We all do this. We get distracted, we get excited, we meet a thought on our mental safari and spend a few seconds running it down. Nothing wrong with that.

But when it becomes a habit, we’ve got problems. When we trade dialogue for sequential press statements, nobody feels connected and there’s no possibility for change—and if there’s no connection and no change, there’s no point to the conversation.

When everyone’s just waiting to talk, you don’t have a conversation—you have a tennis match.

So when you catch yourself not listening, when you notice that you’ve started just waiting to talk, do your best to reconnect. Apologize if needed—chances are good the other person noticed you were absent. And get back into it.

Remember that the point of conversation is to connect, to share information, and to change things. That has to start with connection.

And if you don’t want to actually listen to what the other person is saying, it’s worth asking whether there’s any point to continuing the conversation. What’s the point of talking if nobody listens?

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5 thoughts on “Waiting to Talk Isn’t Listening

  1. I totally agree. I have a question not a comment.
    Do you have any tools a person can use when trying to listen effectively?

    Best,

    CM-

      1. First, I should tell you that a guy I see at my local gym in Quincy mentioned you by name. His name is Bob and he has an amazing voice. He plays a bagpipe and a number of other instruments. Bob is good guy and I thought I’d explore his suggestion.
        That said, I am interested in any tools or tips that w/could help me (or anyone, really) be a highly effective listener.
        I’ve scoured the web for tips and tools. Some guides are more helpful than others. I have some good leads like the EMPATHY acronym (eye contact, mirror, posture, acknowledge, ….) I just wanted to see if there’s anything else out there.

        Thanks,

        CM-

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