We know how to have a conversation.
But what about those conversations where the other person seems to be doing all the talking, most of the time?
What do you do when you can’t seem to get a word in?
Sometimes conversations with family and friends can be one-sided. Sometimes two-way conversations need a little finessing.
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Here are my equal opportunity talking tips to help you have better two-way conversations.
If someone is talking about their life all of the time sometimes you just need to jump in and talk about yours.
You need to step up. Don’t sit back and think the conversation will naturally turn to you. It might not. You have to take the initiative and speak up.
I’m not suggesting interrupting someone mid-sentence – though I confess I have done this in the past out of pure desperation to get a word in.
Don’t interrupt, instead, let them finish what they are saying and then jump right in.
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- It’s Not All About You
Don’t let people interrupt
Interrupting works both ways, don’t let other people cut you off mid-sentence either.
Naturally big group conversations have a different flow and interruptions are more common but for the purpose of this post, I’m talking about one on one conversations.
Don’t let people direct the topic back onto themselves
Your friend has been talking for an hour. Finally, you got your word in and you are sharing your thoughts and feelings. Excellent!
Except that your thoughts have triggered more of their thoughts and suddenly they are back talking about themselves again.
You are left scratching your head wondering what the hell happened.
If this happens it’s time to come back swinging. No passive-aggressive behavior here folks. Be polite but direct them back to your original conversation.
Need help handling a critical discussion? The book Crucial Conversations can help with those conversations where the stakes are high and it’s important that we get our point across.
Related post – How to Have Those Hard Conversations
Pick common topics
Sometimes if you want to have a two-way conversation you need to pick topics that the other person is interested in.
Pick a topic where you know the other person can contribute. By choosing a mutual topic you have a fighting chance of having them listen to you because you have sparked their interest.
Talking about stuff they have no interest in will only make having a conversation harder. Start with mutual topics first.
Sometimes if you want to have a conversation with someone, you will have to talk about topics that you have no interest in whatsoever. Run with it. Hopefully, they will return the favor. If not a topic change may be in order.
Related post – 20 Ways to Show Genuine Interest in People’s Lives
Direct people onto a different topic
Sometimes it’s not about you wanting to talk about yourself, sometimes it about getting a person off a particular topic.
Picture the scene. Your friend has had yet another issue with their non-committal, not so nice partner. In a nutshell, you have listened to the same story a thousand times and you know it always ends the same way.
Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying you shouldn’t support your friends through times of emotional heartbreak and upheaval (I thank God my friends were there to listen to my far too frequent boyfriend ramblings over the years) but there does come a point when you have talked a subject to death and you need to move on and talk about something else.
The key is to ask lots of questions. Lots of questions on a different topic as far removed from the one you are trying to avoid.
If someone is constantly talking about a bad relationship, stay away from any relationship related questions. Not just their relationship but any relationship at all. Perhaps ask about work or something completely unrelated.
The book How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Tips for Big Success in Relationships is one of those pocket rocket books filled with useful tips that you can put into action straight away.
Don’t bitch about people
Family members are notorious for this. Don’t let all of your conversations turn into a bitch-fest.
If all you do is bitch and moan you are not communicating with the other person. You are not talking and connecting, you are just complaining and probably being mean.
Mean generally tends to come back to bite you. One lesson I have learned – don’t bitch about a family member to another family member. That is what friends (outside of the family) are for.
Families can be complex little ecosystems – one week the cousin you were whingeing to Auntie Mary about may become Auntie Mary’s new best friend. Then you have trouble.
If the only thing you have to talk to your family about is each other, get out of the house this minute and do something fun, exciting or interesting. Preferably all three!
Related post – How to Survive Being the Black Sheep of the Family
Ask to be heard
There may be times when you have to tell the person you are speaking to that you need to talk to them about something in particular and you need them to listen.
Word of warning this should never be said in an angry tone. You are asking them for their time.
Use this one sparingly and be nice about it but don’t be scared to let people know when you really need someone to talk to.
Of course, this respect and consideration should work both ways. Conversations should be a two-way proposition benefiting each of the parties involved.
If you find yourself doing all the talking, all the time it’s definitely time to give someone else a go.
If you feel you could benefit from becoming a better listener, Udemy have online courses to improve your listening skills. Courses to have a look at are Conscious Listening, Effective Listening Skills to Become More Successful and Listening Skills – The Ultimate Workplace Soft Skills.
Improving your listening skills will not only improve your personal conversations but also help you in the workplace.
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