Are you shutting conversations down before they begin?

What would your life be like if everyone around you was able to get across exactly what they wanted to say, the very first time they tried?

Think of the misunderstanding, confusion and even heartache you’d avoid! Consider the time you’d save if you never had to go back to someone a second time – in conversation or email – to clarify what they meant.

Think of the huge gains each of us could make if we spent a little more time on our communication skills.

Converging or expanding?

Correctly understanding someone else’s message starts with how you listen to them.

Did you know that whenever you’re in a conversation, you’re either converging (already thinking about the outcome) or expanding (keeping an open mind and exploring possibilities)?

I’ve certainly been guilty of listening to someone with only half an ear, but inwardly already ending the conversation and moving on to the next thing! How about you? Most of us converge, a lot of the time.

Imagine if you could get much better results from your conversations – whether that’s at work or in your personal relationships. 

The reality is, we humans are pre-geared towards outcomes. Whenever you’re talking to someone, your brain is immediately asking “what?” and “how?”

While it can be great to solve problems quickly, the downside is that once we converge, the part of our brain that can open up the conversation to other possibilities shuts down. It just gives up the ghost. End of story.

That might mean you’re missing really important parts of the other person’s message – plus, you’re shutting the conversation down (at least in your mind, and that’s going to be written all over your face!) which risks damaging a long-term relationship.

An easy step to practise

Are you a regular converger? Once you’re aware of this habit, you can make small tweaks to break it.

Next time you’re in a conversation, see if you can spend a few minutes actively gathering information rather than drawing a conclusion straight away.

Unless you’re already 100% clear on what the other person means, try asking an exploratory question, like:

  •  “Would you help me understand..?”
  • “I’m just wondering if I have this straight..?
  • “Can you tell me more about…?

The extra information you get might mean the difference between understanding the whole message or getting the wrong end of the stick.

Being a listener who expands is one of the characteristics of a truly effective communicator. Great communicators have the edge in business and in life, so these small shifts are well worth making.

In your conversations, ask yourself “am I converging or expanding?”

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