For example, you might be concerned with "What do I say next?"
Or, maybe you'd be stymied by one of these challenging situations:
- Meeting and talking to famous people
- Defending yourself when verbally attacked
- Understanding complex messages accurately
- Networking successfully
- Making and retaining new friends
- Managing a work team on a project
The more options you have in your conversation repertoire, the
more effective you can be. A technical term for this is "the law of requisite variety." The person with the largest variety of moves can influence the outcome of the conversation. For
example: The salesperson with a larger number of responses
than a buyer has objections can usually make the sale.
An example of having too few effective options:
Non-assertive people become doormats when others
treat them unfairly or disdainfully. They become insecure and
socially anxious. They don't know how to defend themselves.
At the start of the "assertiveness movement," psychologist Manuel Smith wrote the first of several books entitled When I say No, I Feel Guilty" (1975). One of his conclusions was that people who lacked assertive communication skills suffered from social anxiety, even clinical depression.
But they didn't need psychotherapy; they needed more effective communication skills through behavior practice. When they acquired and used those skills, their anxiety disappeared.
Same behavior, same results
Many of you have seen the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day, starring Bill Murray, who played the arrogant weatherman Phil Connors. Until he changed his attitudes and the way he treated others, each one of his days was the same. People disliked him. He had no real friends. Finally, when he "got it" and made real changes, his days were different and positive.
One of the most common conversation deficiencies is overuse
of the "take-away" ploy. This happens when A begins to describe a topic and B grabs the topic and scoots off before A finishes.
This behavior is fairly easy to identify, but, like most long term habits, it is usually hard to change.
Example: A friend from my church phoned me with a few questions. As I began to answer each question, he hitch-hiked on my words and took over the conversation. In fact, he did this about 6 times during our 15-minute conversation. After our phone talk, he noticed what he had done.
However, awareness was not enough for him to make a change. When he had two other phone conversations immediately afterwards, he did the same thing, over and over. Off-putting? Yes.
What does he need to do to change?
He needs to work on one habit at a time, and probably for 30 days. Why so long? Because the neural pathways in his brain that produce the same (now unwanted) behavior are well-developed, and it will take time to weaken them by replacing the old pattern with a new one. For example, instead of a "take-away," to say "Tell me more."
Here's a simple format for his (or your) change:
1. When you're aware of a conversation habit that doesn't serve you, write it down. For example, "I interrupt others before they finish."
2. Create a better alternative behavior to use, such as asking a follow-up question. Write this down as a goal to be achieved.
3. As a reminder, wear a rubber band on your wrist. If you notice you've fallen back into your unwanted habit, give it a stinging snap.
4. Set your goal to eliminate the habit and replace it with a preferred behavior during a "trial period" of 30 days.
5. Read your goal several times each day and keep track as each of the 30 days goes by. "Great! Day 12, and now I almost never do the "take-away." Continue to the end of day 30.
You can either install a desired new behavior (like asking better questions, or listening with full attention), or you can un-install(weaken) an unwanted behavior. Your choice.
As Napoleon Hill (author of Think and Grow Rich) wrote:
"It is always your next move."
What's you next move?
Loren Ekroth © 2009, All rights reserved
Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and
a national expert on conversation for business and social life. His
articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills for
business and professional people.
Contact Loren at Loren@conversation-matters.com. Check out a wealth of valuable resources and articles at http://www.conversation-matters.com
and subscribe to his weekly free Better Conversations ezine (which also entitles you to two very informative reports).
Some Related Articles:
Why Change Bad Conversation Habits?
Seven Best Conversation Practices