We have all received advice on becoming better communicators: look people in the eye, nod, and smile. This shows you are paying attention. Forget all that!
There is no reason to show you’re paying attention, if you are, in fact, listening and paying attention. Here is some of the latest thinking on better conversations.
1. Be in the moment. Be present with the person you are having a conversation with. Don’t multitask. Don’t think about what you are going to say next. Don’t think about dinner. Stay focused. Be in the moment!
2. Listen and go with the flow. According to the National Center for Voice and Speech, “The average rate of speech for Americans is around 150 words per minute.” However, we can comprehend 500-700 words per minute. Since we are able to think faster than the other person can speak, our minds wander.
When thoughts enter our minds, we should learn to let them go. It takes effort and energy to actually pay attention and truly listen to someone else.
3. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. If you’re conversing with a friend about her injury, don’t tell about your injury. If she is talking about the death of a family member, be careful about sharing the time you lost a family member. When in doubt, just remember, it’s not about you.
If you practice these three skills, you will be on your way to enjoying better conversations.
To hear more about these ideas and others from Celeste Headlee’s TED talk: “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation,” visit TED.com.