Are you talking or communicating?

When you talk to someone, are you more interested in saying what you have to say or them actually hearing it?

This is a surprisingly non-trivial question. Too often, recently, I have been on the receiving end of talking that isn’t really communicating.

Maybe, when you want to communicate, you should ask yourself a couple of questions:

1) Is anyone listening?
This seems really obvious, but in our modern “multitasking” society you can’t assume that someone sitting near you sans headphones is ready (or interested) to listen to you. Listeners should have to opportunity to “buy-in” before you start your long story about what your co-worker did or your thoughts on the latest political nonsense. Make some eye contact. Hell, you could even ask.

Honestly, no one really multitasks. If they are replying to an email, they aren’t really listening to you and will probably be annoyed by that incessant buzzing in their ear.

2) Are you whispering (or yelling) to help you communicate?
Take this metaphorically or literally, it applies the same. If you are communicating, the volume should be appropriate to the comfort of the listener. If you are so loud that it is uncomfortable for the listener, they will shut you off for their own comfort. If you are too quiet, they can’t hear you. Either way you are not effectively communicating.

I have a friend who whispers and sometimes just mouths words for no good reason. It’s not secrets, inappropriate or anything. Maybe it is just a bad habit, but it makes me feel like I have intermittent deafness. You get tired of asking people to repeat themselves or saying, “I’m standing right next to you.”

3) Is your communicating interactive?
Unless you are standing at a lectern, it is unlikely anyone wants your ten minute long discourse. Breathe. Allow others to work in a couple of words.

4) Does your audience get your references?
No one loves pop-culture references as much as I do, but you cannot watch (read, listen to) everything or sees all that’s out there. Make sure people have seen that YouTube video before you base your argument around it. If you have to spend the first ten minutes explaining the episode of Seinfeld I never saw, maybe you need a better simile?

Bottom line, if you don’t care whether I really hear you, don’t talk to me.

I hope that I was communicating and not talking here. I tried to keep it short and I didn’t want to rant. Let me know what I missed. Do these things bother anyone besides me?

“Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few.” – Pythagoras