One End at a Time

Do you remember as a kid talking to your friend across the yard through two tin cans and some string? Or maybe you were a bit more sophisticated and actually used a walk-talkie. Either way, as you recall, you could either talk or listen. You’d talk, then listen. If you tried to talk at the same time your friend was talking, neither of you heard each other. Either your ear wasn’t at the can or your button was pushed on the walkie talkie. Bottom line, no matter how hard you tried, you just couldn’t talk and listen at the same time.

Nothing much has changed since then. How often in our jobs, our relationships, or even phone conversations, do we still try to talk and listen at the same time? It still doesn’t work. But some still consider it a personal challenge to do both. In fact, it has become a type of control over others. For example, sit in a business meeting and listen to how everyone talks all over each other. Everyone’s talking – no one is listening. Then watch the Sunday morning political news shows. Politicians turn it up a notch. They seem to think that by not only talking over others, but being the loudest at it, their opinions are truth. Just because you can express your opinions loudly doesn’t make them right. Who really wins at these screaming matches, anyway? They had to install bells and lights at the debates to keep these politicians from getting into power matches. I can only image what it must be like in those meetings with no lights or bells to keep things under control.

How about you? Are you a talk-over? Are you listening as much as you are talking? Or when listening, do you interrupt the talker to express your opinion. Do you realize that when you do this it implies that you and your thoughts are more important than theirs? Test yourself. For the next three days, pay attention to how often you allow others to finish their sentences before replying. And notice how often you ask questions or
elicit responses from others. You might be surprised because we all do it.

Perhaps we can all just pretend we’re communicating through those tin cans with string where we can’t talk AND listen at the same time. Learning to “share” the receiver is a virtue we can all strive to obtain.

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