We are all unique and that is a beautiful thing. Some are more introverted, who like to keep to themselves in most instances, and lose energy from being around other people. Then there are extroverts, who are energized by being around other people and talking to them. Extroverts, of course, are more outspoken, and can tend to rule most conversations. For those of you who don’t quite fit into either of these two classic categories, then there are ambiverts — people who exhibit qualities of both introversion and extroversion.
Some people will give introverts a hard time, because they don’t say enough. And some will give extroverts a hard time, because they say too much. Yes, depending on which category you fall into has a lot to do with how you handle yourself in conversation, but it has nothing to do with common sense and courtesy. And no matter which category you fall into, when people come to talk to you about something, it doesn’t mean they always want or need your opinion. Too often, people forget the power found in listening.
With becoming better communicators, it is important to not only focus on what we say, and how we say it, but we all need to become better listeners, too. Here are three ways to know if you are better at listening first or giving your opinion too soon:
Is your first response to speak or to listen?
Knowing the answer to this question will tell you whether you lean towards giving your opinion first, or if your first response is to listen to the needs of others. An example of this in my own life was when I had a friend who came to me because he was having trouble in every area of life. He was going through a very rough season, and just needed someone to talk to. I was fortunate enough to see this as an opportunity to just listen, so I sat there on the phone for an hour and fifteen minutes listening to my friend on the other side of the phone spilling his guts out for me to listen to. You know what would have really messed this opportunity up? If I would have interjected at some point along the way. The conversation went where it was supposed to go. If I would have stopped him along the way, I would have been selfish in controlling the conversation and forcing it to go where I wanted it to go. If you don’t listen, what you say won’t make any sense to the other person.
But, you want to know what happened at the end of the conversation? He asked me what he should do. That’s right. I waited my turn. It didn’t take me forcing my opinion on him, but he asked for advice when he was ready to hear what I would have to say. Too often people interject their own needs into a conversation, without ever considering what the other person needs. Advice said at the wrong time falls on deaf ears, which doesn’t help anyone. In most cases, people will ask you for your opinion if they really want it. If they don’t ask for it, they will ask someone else, figure it out for themselves, or read advice in a book or online from a respected source.
I promise that you don’t have to have all the answers, nor should you put that sort of pressure on yourself. People need friends who will just be there for them, and just being this person for others is enough. Sometimes, the need for human interaction just needs another person to listen, and that’s okay.
Do people come to you for advice?
If someone has communicated that they are coming to you for advice, then by all means, give it. But, it is very different if someone is just coming to you to talk. This is where two-way communication and listening to see what other people need from you is important.
If people repeatedly come to you for advice, then it is probably a good sign that you are great at both giving advice and listening. You see, the two go hand in hand. One cannot give great advice without first listening to the needs of others. We can all say words without giving them much thought, but it takes a great listener to give heartfelt advice. That’s the mark of someone who loves people, and also understands what people need.
Are you known as someone who talks too much?
Although I would call myself a writer who speaks, rather than the other way around, people still come to me for advice on public speaking. Although I haven’t had much practice at public speaking as of late, I do believe it is important for anyone who wants to impact people to develop this craft in one way or another.
[Sidenote: I haven’t booked any speaking engagements lately for two reasons. First, because I have been focusing nonstop on writing. And second, because I promised Jasmine that I wouldn’t travel until our son Nolan turned one, which is this month. We have a four-year-old and a one-year-old, which is absolutely bonkers! This being said, I plan on next year being full of speaking engagements, and I can’t wait for you to hear some new ideas I have been working on.]
Anyway, I believe the reason that people want to get better at public speaking is because they often look at being able to speak in public as the most important form of communication. While I do believe speaking is an important form of communication, being out in front of people delivering your opinion on things is a very one-sided form of communication. Yes, to become really good at public speaking you have to be in touch with your audience and know what they need from you, but getting feedback from them after speaking is a much more difficult task. In other words, to be a great communicator, you cannot be all talk. At some point, you must look at all facets of communication, including the power found in listening.
We were told as kids that talking too much in school would get us in trouble, and this advice remains true today. The trouble found in not listening is that people will not want to be around you for too long if you never let others get a word in. I have found in my lifetime that there a lot of people who like to hear themselves talk. The problem with keeping relationships one-sided is that it keeps deep relationships from happening.
A rule that I have applied in my life to listening versus speaking is the 60/40 rule, and filling in the gaps in conversation when needed. Of course each situation is different, but listening 60% of the time and speaking 40% of the time is a great rule for everyone to adopt, because it allows individuals to give their full attention to others. And there’s never anything wrong with making others feel special by giving eye contact, a full heart, and actually taking the time to listen to them. Listening is just another great way to impact more people with your life.