Thursday, February 2, 2017

Can We Have a Conversation, Please?

A bit of writer’s block this week, but there is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately. Actually, it’s something I’ve noticed more and more over the last several years.

We don’t have conversations anymore. Or more specifically, we don’t converse – we talk at each other or over each other. And we don’t even do that in a civil manner. I only use "we" because on occasion, I see myself falling into this really bad habit, if only because failing to do so means I get pushed out of the conversation!

I see this in business settings, on TV news programs and in private conversations. What happens?

First, everyone is speaking as fast as possible – probably because they know, consciously or not, that they have very little time to get out their point before someone else (rudely) interrupts them. And that may be the big takeaway here – the interruption. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed a conversation where everyone participating continually interrupts someone else. No one seems to be allowed to actually finish a sentence before someone else rolls over them. And then there’s the volume. The faster they speak the louder they get. Again, I can only imagine it’s some reaction to ensuring their contribution to the conversation is heard, or trying to ensure they actually get the opportunity to contribute.  That's not conversing, folks.  That's just noise.

Watch any news program – regular news broadcasts, or any of the many news discussion programs and pay attention. I realize they have a limited amount of time to cover the stories or news items, but speaking at about 150 mph doesn’t help the audience if the audience can’t catch what’s being said. And saying it louder doesn’t solve that problem!

But as I mentioned above, the real issue here is that we simply won’t let others speak without interruption. How do you have an intelligent, open conversation with anyone if no one can finish a sentence? Want an answer to your question? Great, shut-up and listen. Even if you think the answer is non-responsive to your question, you can always follow-up with another question. But rudely interrupting isn’t going to get you anywhere. I think you can probably guess that constant interruption only agitates the other party.  Nothing gets accomplished this way.

The next time you have a conversation, be it business or personal, slow down and listen. Allow the other person to speak. In other words, converse. You might actually learn something in the process.

Next week, I’ll try to catch you up on what’s happening in the employment law/workplace regulation arena in the Maryland General Assembly.

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